Check against delivery Address by Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs at the Meeting of the Parliamentary Presidents of the Acceding Countries to the European Union
Debating on proposals for further European Union reforms, the Convention on the Future of Europe was very explicit about its support for the enhancement of the role of national Parliaments. The Convention decided that beside its usual functions such as mandating the national government to represent the national position in the EU legislative process; scrutiny of exercise by the government of this authority and subsequent implementation of the effective EU legislation, a national Parliament should fulfil additional functions: monitor application of the subsidiarity principle with the creation of an early warning mechanism and consider all legislative proposals by the European Commission and the Council, all Commission consultation documents, Commission annual legislative programmes, other EU institution documents and activity reports as well as accession applications.
As we wish to be involved in the activities of the European Union, we pass some of our competences over to Union institutions, which for national Parliaments translates into abandoning of some of its legislative functions. They have shared these functions with no one before, therefore we face the following fundamental question now: how to ensure full and timely information for Member States national Parliaments about European Union legislative initiatives and a possibility of their active involvement.
Supporting the principal position of enhancement of the role of national Parliaments as the guarantors of democracy, transparency and government accountability and realising that upon Lithuanias EU accession, the functions of the Seimas and other state institutions will have to change in order to adjust to new realities, we are finalising the creation of a Seimas model of co-ordination of EU affairs. The model rests on several fundamental principles:
1. Being informed. We are convinced that knowledge by the Seimas of EU affairs and its being continuously informed in advance is of particular importance;
2. Wide scope. The powers of the Seimas should cover all the matters that are dealt with in the European Union;
3. Universal involvement. Discussions about EU affairs involve all the members of the Seimas (Parliament), moreover, they are discussed in European Affairs and Foreign Affairs Committees as well as line Committees in respect of their competence;
4. Active participation. The Seimas debates on EU affairs related positions submitted by the Government and takes an active part in developing them;
5. Constructiveness. The Seimas attempts at reaching a broad agreement on formulating Lithuania's position on EU matters, while, as a rule, it applies a consensus method in decision-making;
6. Continuity. The Seimas exercises its scrutiny over the Government in decision-making as well as follow-up, i.e. when decisions are implemented.
It is, however, evident that the level of quality and legitimacy of EU decisions cannot be ensured without co-operation between national Parliaments, without exchange of information and closer parliamentary scrutiny over governments. The new Constitutional Treaty of the European Union gives us broad authority to determine the forms and contents of inter-parliamentary co-operation. In our view, co-operation between national Parliaments as well as co-operation between national Parliaments and the European Parliament should be more active. A wonderful example of such co-operation is an initiative by the European Parliament to invite delegates of national Parliaments to attend meetings of the Constitutional Affairs Committee where the progress of the Intergovernmental Conference is discussed. Our responsibility is to ensure that the European legislative exercise should be transparent open and understandable.
Another point is that regular meetings of national Parliaments and European Parliament committees should offer wonderful opportunities to see what is happening outside our own yards. The environment, rural affairs, protection of the external border is far from being a national affair alone. These areas are our common concern.
We agree with closer co-operation between our Parliament administrations too. Since those cover committee secretariats, information and analysis units, European information centres and libraries, legal and information technology divisions.
Exchange of information about the preparation of states for the fulfilment of new functions provided by the Constitutional Treaty, and, in particular, about monitoring of subsidiarity, co-ordination of positions concerning the compliance of Commission's legislative proposals with the subsidiarity principle, intended assessment by parliaments of documents directly received, scrutiny of governments activities in the European Union, etc. would be an especially beneficial and effective tool for the enhancement of the role of national Parliaments in the European Union. We all need knowledge, human contacts and confidence in one another.
A significant effort should be put into building mechanisms that would assist national Parliaments to play a significant role in ensuring transparency, legitimacy and effectiveness of decision-making without setting up new institutions since the wellbeing of the European Union and its Member States, as well as the welfare of their citizens will depend on the success of such an effort.