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National parliaments must have a bigger role in Europe says Lords EU Committee Chairman

Lord Boswell, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Committee, will today give a keynote address to COSAC calling for national parliaments in Europe to have an enhanced role in EU policy-making.

In his speech, to be delivered at the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs (known as COSAC) in Rome, Lord Boswell will say that the EU must respond to the threat to its democratic legitimacy posed by the economic crisis, the rise of extremist parties across Europe, and the low turnout at European elections. He will argue that these challenges should be met by giving national parliaments a more pro-active and influential role in shaping the development of EU policies.

Lord Boswell will welcome indications that the new European Commission is likely to be more receptive to the views of national parliaments than its predecessor, which would often “close ranks behind a legalistic and dismissive response” to national parliaments' concerns.

The speech will also call for a “fundamental re-configuring” of the existing political dialogue between national parliaments and the EU institutions.

Lord Boswell will encourage his COSAC colleagues to ensure national parliaments themselves do more to engage with EU issues, as well as scrutinising their own national governments. He will argue for national parliaments to be more agile and willing to adopt new ways of working to ensure they are up to the job. He will say that EU scrutiny committees in national parliaments need to better at identifying important issues early in the process: “in order to be effective we must also be selective”.

Lord Boswell's speech will conclude by calling for greater cooperation and dialogue between national parliaments and the EU institutions, and will end on an optimistic note:  “It will require good will and determination, but I believe that, working together, we will succeed.”

The new Commission's First Vice President Frans Timmermans will also be giving a key-note speech to COSAC today, in which he is expected to outline his plans for improving co-operation with national parliaments.

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