1.Increased Democratic controls
A key section of the Reform Treaty is devoted to setting out the values and democratic principles on which the
EU is based. It specifies that the Union is founded on “representative democracy” and makes it clear that “every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union.”
The Treaty will:
- Provide National Parliaments with a new and wider role in EU affairs;
- Develop the role of the European Parliament;
- Introduce a Citizens’ Initiative.
1. The role of National Parliaments
The Reform Treaty will give the National Parliaments of EU Member States a direct input into European legislation. All proposals for EU legislation will be sent directly to National Parliaments. The Parliaments will have the right to offer “reasoned opinions.”
If a sufficient number of National Parliaments object to a particular proposal, it can either be amended or withdrawn. This “yellow card procedure” is designed to give National Parliaments an important role in ensuring that the Union does not exceed its authority by involving itself in matters which can best be dealt with at national, regional or local level.
The Treaty also gives any National Parliament a right to veto any move to allow issues still requiring a unanimous decision of the European Council or the Council of Ministers to be decided by a majority vote.
“National Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union: through being informed by the institutions of the Union and having draft legislative acts of the Union forwarded to them in accordance with the Protocol on the role of National Parliaments in the European Union.”
Art 1.12 Reform Treaty
National Parliaments are given the power to ensure that the principle of Subsidiarity is respected by the Unions, Institutions and in its laws. The principle of Subsidiarity provides that decisions should, as far as possible, be taken at local, regional or national level.
II. The role of the European Parliament
The European Parliament is elected every five years to represent the people of the EU’s member countries. Its
role is defined by the EU Treaties.
“The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.”
Art 1.12 Reform Treaty
Under the Reform Treaty, its membership will be capped at 751. Seats will be distributed in such a way that smaller
countries will get more seats than their population would warrant. No country can have fewer than 6 MEPs or more than 96 MEPs. From June 2009, Ireland will be entitled to 12 MEPs.
The Treaty increases the number of areas in which the European Parliament will share the task of lawmaking with the Council of Ministers through a process known as co-decision. The Parliament’s budgetary role will also be strengthened. When the Parliament was first established, its involvement in EU decision-making was very limited. The Reform Treaty will ensure that it is centrally involved in virtually all areas in which the Union legislates.
“ I have been a Member of the European Parliament since the first direct elections in 1979. In those days, Parliament had no legislative powers: it is now at the heart of a European parliamentary democracy unimaginable in 1979.”
President of the European Parliament,
Prof. Hans-Gert Pöttering, speaking at the signing of the Treaty in Lisbon
III. The citizens’ initiative
For the first time, the Treaty provides for Europe-wide citizens’ initiatives which will allow citizens of the Union to have a more direct say on European matters. Under the Treaty, a petition with at least one million signatures obtained from a number of Member States can request the European Commission to propose EU legislation.