171. Bridging the gap between citizens and EU decision-making
will remain inherently difficult, not only because of the EU's
size but above all because of its unique combination of supranational
and Member State authority, which means that decision-making will
always be more complex than in a State. The more radical of the
ideas discussed above would generally tilt the balance of power
heavily in a supranational or a Member State direction.
172. However, our rejection of the more radical ideas
does not mean that our proposals would not have a substantial
impact on the relationship of citizens and EU decision-making.
They would do so in two main ways: by increasing openness in the
legislative process and by enlarging the role of national parliaments.
The role and effectiveness of national parliaments would be increased
in the following ways:
- Greater ability to hold Ministers to account
for their activities in the Council;
- More time to scrutinise EU proposals;
- Power to refer EU legislation for examination
of whether it complies with the principle of subsidiarity;
- Joint meetings with MEPs to scrutinise the Commission's
annual work programme and other matters and question Commissioners
- A reformed COSAC to act as a strategic body on
behalf of national parliaments.
173. The direct involvement of national parliaments
in the EU would be increased without cutting across formal lines
of accountability, and in ways which would improve the scrutiny
of governments at national level and provide opportunities to
bridge the gap between citizens and EU decision-making. The extent
to which this happened in practice would depend on the actions
of each national parliament. However, the potential would exist
for a simultaneous strengthening of national parliaments, of democracy
and accountability more widely in the EU, and of the EU itself
through the reconnecting of citizens and EU decision-making.