Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


A Two-Chamber System

For a system composed of a directly elected and a federative chamber to work, the line of demarcation between the Council and Parliament competencies must be rethought. In the co-decision procedure that is already practised in some areas today, the Parliament and the Council are equally involved in the decision-making process; in principle this practice ought to be expanded to all areas of European politics. This would expand the authorities of the European Parliament, and hence increase the democratic legitimation of European politics. There would only be exceptions to this principle in a few areas, where decisions would remain solely the Council's responsibility, but the Parliament would of course be consulted. This would affect foreign affairs and security policies, for example, as well as justice and home-affairs policy, decisions about financial distributions between the member states, and changes to the fundamental positions in the treaties of the European Federation or its constitution.

The rules for the election and composition of the European Parliament also stand in need of reform. Besides aiming at the development of common European voting rights, changes need to aim at more fairly representing the distribution of population and levelling out the existing disequilibrium between the size of the population and the number of representatives. The weighting of votes in the European Council also needs to be rethought: granting an unequal share of power to the small countries may have made sense when the concern was with balancing power between a few small and a few large countries in a Union composed of six, twelve, or maybe even fifteen members. But it will lead to unjustifiable distortions when we are dealing with over 20 small countries and a few large ones. This may be the main thrust of Gerhard Schröder's proposal to vote in accordance with the principle of the "double majority" in the future. As a result, resolutions would only be able to be taken up if they were supported by the majority of the member states and these member states simultaneously represented the majority of Europe's population.

However, by itself, a fairer representation of national interests in decision-making processes will not ensure that the EU will be capable of efficient political action. A change in the existing decision-making rules would be necessary for this. This is especially important for decision-making in the Council. The principle of unanimity should be restricted to intergovernmental conferences and constitutional decisions, as it is in sharp contrast with the above arguments, which aim at a more balanced system of power in Council decision-making. Hence, apart from these exceptions, decisions are to be made with a qualified or a simple majority; in this, the areas of application are to be further specified.



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