Written Answers. - Parliament's Role in EC Activities.

Seán Barrett


46 Mr. S. Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, he intends to take to ensure that the Parliament is more involved in the decision making process of the European Community in view of the statement contained in the Presidency conclusion following the European Council meeting on 16 October 1992 reaffirming that National Parliaments should be more closely involved in the Community's activities.

The Treaty on European Union provides for an enhanced role for the European Parliament. During the negotiations leading to the Treaty there was a broad consensus among the member states that the role of the European Parliament needed to be strengthened while maintaining the overall balance between the Community Institutions.

The Treaty contains a Declaration on the role of National Parliaments which provides for greater information on legislative proposals from the Commission and greater co-operation with the European Parliament. The Birmingham European Council on 18 October 1992 reaffirmed that national parliaments should be more closely involved in the Community's activities and that the matter would be discussed with national Parliaments. The Birmingham Declaration also welcomed the Commission's readiness to respond positively to requests from national parliaments for explanations of proposals. This is an important step by the Commission which has the exclusive right under the Treaties to make proposals for legislation.
At present the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation has considerable powers to review Commission proposals, acts of the Institutions, including legislation adopted by the Council of Ministers and, of course, secondary legislation consequent on Community acts. The committee has from the outset received from my Department copies of all proposals for legislation made by the Commission.
The Government fully support the Birmingham Declaration. In order to put these ideas into effect, I am anxious for the Oireachtas to have greater involvement in European Community Affairs, building on the valuable work carried out by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities since Ireland joined the Community. As the Deputy will be aware, discussions are at present under way among the parties represented in the Oireachtas on the establishment of a Foreign Affairs Committee and on the role of such a Committee in relation to EC matters. I hope that the outcome of these discussions will be a structure which will permit closer involvement of the Oireachtas with the major issues facing this country in its relationship with Europe.