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PE 475 121 an Assessment of the European Semester UPDATE PUBLISH

PE 475 121 an Assessment of the European Semester UPDATE PUBLISH

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Published by: Bruegel on Oct 22, 2012
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The other aspect of the Semester we have discussed and assessed is its legitimacy. We
have explored the different dimensions of legitimacy focusing on the distinction between
input and output legitimacy and argued that input legitimacy is a much more significant
perspective to be applied to the Semester than output legitimacy. Input legitimacy is
mostly a function of the type and depth of involvement in the procedure of the European
Parliament and of National Parliaments and the appropriate compliance with legal
procedures. The first year of implementation did unfold before the Economic Dialogue was
codified in the Six-pack and hence before the European Parliament was granted an
institutionalised albeit soft role in the European Semester cycle. In turn, in spite of the
launch of an own-initiative report (INI) procedure on the Semester, the European
Parliament did not provide any formal input to the Semester process itself, whilst but
offering a fundamental contribution in the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure
on the Six-pack to codify the European Semester and the instrument of the Economic
Dialogue. All in all, the formal involvement of the European Parliament has been rather
limited in the first European Semester cycle. In the first phase of the second cycle, the
European Parliament has been able to play a larger role by means of the Economic
Dialogue. However, a fundamental aspect that hinges on the legitimacy of the Semester is
the fact that the European Parliament cannot change policy recommendations. This remains
an obligation of the Commission, the Council and the national decision makers.

To assess the actual involvement of National Parliaments in the first Semester cycle, we
have collected original survey-based evidence. Our results suggest that, all in all, the
National Parliaments have proved quite active. Few full plenaries debate the SCPs but
parliamentary committees are more active - SCPs, NRPs, and the European Commission’s
AGS all receive attention in at least ⅔ of the parliaments at the national level. In this
context, there are a few findings worth highlighting. First, the government’s own multi-
annual domestic plans receive little scrutiny at the committee level. Even in a Member
State like Germany with a relatively strong parliament in the budgetary process, the
committees are simply informed of the government’s plans but there is no debate. To the
extent that committees (and even plenaries) use the SCP debates to evaluate multi-annual
plans of the government more generally, the European Semester is adding value to what
parliaments have done in the past. Moreover, the proposed legislation under the Two-pack
would strengthen this connection further by checking whether the government’s proposed
budget in the fall matches the multi-annual plan the government presented under the
European Semester in the spring. Domestic fiscal councils can play a similar role. Second,
the most active committee is the EU Affairs Committee. Functionally, its role is usually to
check what the government does at the European Union level. While this role is useful, it
would be helpful if the committee charged with considering the annual budget would be
more involved.

Third, some National Parliaments recognise that the Interparliamentary Cooperation may
be useful but some of them were uncomfortable in providing answers. Whilst there may be
some resistance in the national capitals to provide immediate support to the idea of raising
the profile of Interparliamentary Cooperation, the issue is likely to become prominent in the
next years. Indeed the role of the European Parliament and of National Parliaments is not
only important when the two institutions are taken individually, but also insofar as they can


These factors might be more relevant in the future under the Two-pack, which imposes further reporting
requirements that should have different implications depending on the timeline of different national budget

An Assessment of the European Semester


PE 475.121


collaborate through the Interparliamentary Cooperation. The latter is only a locus for
discussion and not a legislative assembly and it has no tax raising powers. This implies that
its power to influence EU economic policy-making is limited. But that does not mean that
discussion and non-binding deliberation between European and national democratic
institutions bring no benefit to legitimacy. In this regard, it is also important to note that
the TSCG calls on Protocol (No 1) of the Treaties and re-affirms the importance of
democratic principles in the EU, explicitly arguing in favour of the use of the
Interparliamentary Cooperation to discuss budgetary issues pertaining to the TSCG. Whilst
the recognition of the role of the Interparliamentary Cooperation is unlikely to alter in
practice the actual role of the European Parliament in EU economic policy-making, it does
on the other hand create a forum where MEPs and National MPs can exchange views on EU
fiscal policy-making. With this aim and to fully exploit the potential of the
Interparliamentary Cooperation, we provide in the next section policy recommendations
that look at the best ways to set-up Interparliamentary Cooperation meetings,
distinguishing between four dimensions: i) the scheduling of meetings; ii) their composition
(euro area vs non-euro area representatives); iii) the topics they should address; and
iv) the instruments for discussion and deliberation they can use.

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