The democratic house is there. Move into it!
By Ole Aabenhus
"Some of your proposals are of course wonderful, but they have to be transformed into very concrete proposals", was the opening phrase when Danish MEP Margrete Auken took the floor during the My!Europe seminar in the European Parliament.
She had a very precise proposal which gave new focus to proposal C2 in the My!Europe project's "20 Recommendations For More Democracy In Europe". Here it is recommended that national parliaments are given a much stronger role in European law making, and that NGOs, think-tanks and parliamentarians are invited to discuss old and new models for this.
Involve national parliaments
We should use the national parliaments much better than we do today, Margrete Auken said, pointing out that all European parliaments have European Affairs Committees.
"This instrument is probably not used at all in most countries", she said. In Denmark there has been such a European Affairs Committee since the early 1990s, and it has become much more effective over time: "We used to get enormous files from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sometimes with lots of mistakes in them, and you often felt that you didn't understand a word of what it's all about".
"But Parliamentarians should insist that all files should be both correct and readable.
All "EU-Mesopotamic" should be cut out. Tell the ministries to use normal language, so we know what we are talking about".
In Denmark, a minister cannot go to Council meetings in Brussels without having a mandate from Parliament. And this is exactly the instrument that could bring the national parliaments more into play, according to Mrs. Auken. But maybe general European affairs committees should be brought to work better together with specific affairs committee such as transport, agriculture, environment etc.
"Imagine that you have ministers, who come just before council meetings presenting, discussing and negotiating what should be their country's position at the Council meeting. If they do that, journalists are forced to follow what's happening. That would be a great step forward", said Mrs. Auken.
"We should supplement that with cross-border party cooperation - within the Greens, the Socialists, the Conservatives, the Liberals", she continued. "They all have the same agenda every Friday before Council meetings".
"National politicians are not dealing with Europe. That is why COSAC [the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union] never worked. But if you get parties involved here, along with youth organisations, then you have something to build up around."
"The democratic house is there. Move into it. Don't try to rebuild it. Move into it. It's tough work, but it's worthwhile", was her final recommendation before she moved on to another meeting somewhere else in the Parliament.
Margrete Auken is a Danish member of the Greens in the European Parliament. In Denmark she belongs to the Socialist People's Party.