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Can National Parliaments Benefit from New Opportunity Structure? Effectiveness of the EU Affairs Scrutiny after the Lisbon Treaty

Alexander Strelkov

The Lisbon Treaty has enhanced the access of national parliaments to EU politics, yet it remains to be seen whether European institutions and national governments become more receptive of the parliaments' views. The practical effects of the Early Warning system of subsidiarity checks are still unclear, as well as the capacity of national parliaments to use the Lisbon Treaty as an additional leverage. Drawing on actor-centered institutionalism, the paper tries to specify the factors than can help parliaments draw benefit from the new opportunity structure. Depending on the way parliaments secure resources and expertise, develop relations with sectoral committees, streamline majority and opposition relations, contacts with governments the impact of the Lisbon Treaty can be very different. What matters is the "interpretation" that national parliaments give to the Lisbon Treaty. The article uses Hirschman's and Dowding's concepts of "voice", "exit" and "neglect" to classify the responses of parliaments to the new opportunity structure. The case selection is based on the "most different" research design and exploratory interviews with representatives of national parliaments conducted in October-December 2010: the parliaments of Sweden, Czech Republic and Romania are chosen. In order to assess the impact of the Lisbon Treaty, the paper analyzes the scrutiny of the "Green Paper on pensions" (COM 2010 0365) and Proposal for directive on seasonal third-country migrants (COM 2010 0379 looking at the evaluation of both non-legislative and legislative proposals. The capacity to overcome the "democratic deficit" depends on the ability of national parliaments to use the new opportunity structure. Upgrading the role of national representative institutions to achieve better feedback between European and domestic policies was one of the keystones of the Lisbon Treaty. In case the parliaments are still the passive participants of the EU integration process, the mechanisms of representation have to be reconsidered once again.

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