National Parliaments and the Eurozone Crisis: Taking Ownership in Difficult Times?

Katrin Auel, Oliver Höing
2015 West European Politics  
The eurozone crisis suggests a significant reinforcement of the executive dominance in EU policy-making. Opaque emergency decisions taken at European summits as well as treaties established outside of the EU legal framework facilitate the side-lining of democratically elected chambers. This development entails the risk of a new wave of deparliamentarisation in EU policy-making. An effective scrutiny of the crisis management by national parliaments is, however, indispensable to take national
more » ... rship of the reforms in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). This paper therefore investigates national parliaments' involvement in the development of instruments to combat the crisis. Based on a quantitative data set of crisis-related parliamentary activities in 2010-2012, we observe a very uneven engagement in the scrutiny of the crisis management. Institutional prerogatives in EU affairs as well as macro-economic factors can partly explain the observed variation. Surprisingly, however, crisis-related parliamentary activity is not a reaction to Eurosceptic attitudes either in parliament or the public. National parliaments (NPs) were for a long time perceived as the 'institutional Cinderellas of European integration' (Dinan 2012: 85): they neither invested much time in the scrutiny of their governments in EU affairs nor in the scrutiny of European actors. Given the continuous transfer of legislative competences to the European level, this led many observers to lament the erosion of parliamentary involvement in EU affairs (among many, Laursen and Pappas 1995; Norton 1996). Only more recently, this 'de-parliamentarisation thesis' was called into question (see for example Auel and Benz 2005a; O´Brennan and Raunio 2007; Winzen 2012, 2013): national parliaments acquired new formal participation rights, and many are now in a position to exert a stronger influence in EU affairs. These recent improvements, however, seem to have been thwarted by the eurozone crisis. Decisions to tackle the crisis were not only taken under conditions of increased executive dominance and time pressure, making it difficult for parliaments to get involved and to take ownership of the crisis management: core instruments of the new EU economic governance also directly affect the budgetary sovereignty of national parliaments -conventionally seen as the 'crown jewels' (Puntscher Riekmann and Wydra 2013: 565) of democratically elected chambers. In addition, enhanced economic coordination at the European level increasingly reduces the political leeway at the national level in economic policy. Does this development indicate a renewed trend of de-parliamentarisation of EU affairs, and are all parliaments affected to the same degree? Against this background, the aim of the paper is to analyse the crisis-related activities of the 27 national parliaments between 2010 and 2012. The paper proceeds as follows: we briefly discuss the changes to European economic governance and their impact on national parliaments by highlighting the executive dominance during the crisis management as well as the increasing number of initiatives outside the EU legal framework. We then outline the theoretical framework to explain variation in the level of parliamentary scrutiny activity, drawing on agency theory and the broad literature on national parliaments in the EU, which
doi:10.1080/01402382.2014.990694 fatcat:3terrvwbj5cc5dex2v26pzwnse