The parliamentary challenge in the EU and the EEA: an increasing gap
During the last decade, national parliaments have left their status as ‘losers’ of European integration by attaining a more prominent role in the EU. Tracing this development, the paper argues that a gap has evolved between the EU and EFTA countries with regards to parliamentary influence; furthermore, this gap is likely to increase with the introduction of a Constitution for Europe.
Jan Kåre Melsæther and Ulf Sverdrup
The role of parliaments and parliamentarians has been at the core of the discussions on the 'democratic deficit' in the EU. From being the 'losers' of European integration, representative institutions have during the last decade played an increasingly more prominent role in governing Europe. In the article, we argue that the parliamentary dynamism in the EU has no parallel in the EEA or the EFTA States. We have not seen a strengthening of parliamentary institutions in the EEA structures, and the national parliaments of the EFTA Member States have not made adjustments enabling them to get a stronger role in governing European affairs. There is thus an increasing gap between the EU and the EEA regarding parliamentary involvement. The article examines the process of gradually strengthening the parliaments in the EU. It documents the limited formal and actual role played by parliaments and parliamentarians in the EEA construction. In addition, it compares the activities of a national parliament in an EU Member State with those of a parliament in an EFTA State. We conclude by arguing that the new constitution is likely to further increase the gap between parliamentary involvement in the EU and EFTA.