Does Parliamentary Scrutiny Matter? The Autonomy of Federal Executives in the Council Vis-à-vis their Regional and National Parliaments

François Randour

This paper examines in a comparative perspective the negotiation autonomy of the Austrian, Belgian and German federal executives in the Council of the European Union vis-à-vis their domestic parliaments. The paper thus aims at explaining to what extent, how and why regional and national parliamentary actors scrutinized EU decision-making processes and with what consequences for the executives. Innovatively, this paper includes the involvement of regional parliaments in EU policy-making, whereas most studies limit the scope of their analysis to the involvement of national parliaments. Accordingly, this research aims at offering a multi-level understanding of the European decision-making processes by tracing back the interactions between executives and parliamentary actors acting at three levels of governance. Indeed, in federal countries, the agent (the executive) is not only operating a balancing act in a two level game (the EU and the national levels), but well in a three level game, since interests of subnational actors, and especially regional parliaments, must also be taken into consideration. Relying on semi-structured interviews with representatives of the Council of the EU, administrators and parliamentarians, the paper presents original empirical data on four legislative decision-making processes (period 2011-2014) in the environmental policy sector, a competence that is in part regionalized in Austria, Belgium and Germany. Hence, the paper questions the impact of the scrutiny of domestic parliament(s) on the representatives negotiating in the Environment configuration of the Council. Using the Qualitative Comparative Analysis method (QCA), the article investigates the impact on the autonomy of executives of five independent variables: the homogeneity of preferences between the agent and the principals on the one hand, and between principals themselves on the other hand; the institutional strength of parliamentary oversight institutions; the stability of the parliamentary majority and finally, the salience of the EU proposal at the domestic level.





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