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NUMERO 2 - 28/01/2015

 Regional legislatures in the early warning mechanism. When the national (constitutional) identity affects the cooperation among parliaments in EU affairs

The contribution of regional legislatures to the ‘good functioning’ of the European democracy (art. 12 TEU, which explicitly refers to national parliaments) has been substantially overlooked so far, by both the research on the parliamentarisation of the EU institutional architecture – mostly focused on the European Parliament and the national parliaments aiming to overturn the challenge of the so-called ‘democratic deficit’ – and by the contributions on the role of regions in the European integration process, in particular on the problem of the EU ‘regional blindness’. Even when regions have become the subject of an investigation, the analysis has been devoted primarily to regional executives.However, the Treaty of Lisbon has disclosed a new scenario with regard to the participation of ‘regional parliaments’ – as Art. 6, Protocol no. 2 annexed to the Treaty called them – in the European legislative processes. Each national Parliament or each chamber thereof can consult, where appropriate, regional parliaments with legislative powers in the framework of the control of compliance with the principle of subsidiarity by EU legislative proposals, i.e. the ‘early warning mechanism’. The effects, the frequency and the procedures for the consultation of regional parliaments are settled autonomously in each of the 8 Member States that acknowledge legislative powers to all or to some of their regions (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom).In these countries national and regional legislatures have regulated this issue as to define different models of involvement of regional parliaments in the early warning mechanism, some of which effectively enhance the position of subnational legislative assemblies in the European Union (EU).This article aims to highlight how the participation of regional parliaments in the early warning mechanism has developed according to different paths, depending on the features of the federal, regional, and devolution processes in the Member States. Therefore, the procedures and the actual involvement of these legislatures across the EU varies significantly from one country to another, depending on the ‘national identity’ of the Member States at stake (Art. 4.2 TEU). In other words, ‘the fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government’ as the national identity is defined by the European Treaties, do affect the design of the control of compliance with subsidiarity and in particular the position of regional legislatures within the early warning mechanism.By means of a comparative analysis of the early warning mechanism at regional level in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK, the article deals with a crucial junction for the European democratic legitimacy. Indeed, regional parliaments are the directly elected bodies with legislative powers that are closest to the European citizens and those most affected by the transfer of competences to the EU.The article argues that the involvement of regional legislatures in the early warning mechanism can be seen mainly as a tool to strengthen the position of these legislative assemblies in the national context, towards regional executives and the national parliament, aiming to improve the quality of the deliberative process, rather than providing them with powers to directly influence the EU decision-making process.This article is devised as follows: first the position of regional parliaments in the EU studies as subject of investigation is described; secondly, art. 6 of the protocol on the application of the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality is analyzed; thirdly, some remarks are presented about the nature and the content of the principle of subsidiarity; fourthly, a comparative overview of the models of participation of regional parliaments in the early warning mechanism in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK is presented, focusing on the cooperation among regional parliaments (horizontal) and between them and the national parliament (vertical); finally, some conclusions are drawn... (segue)

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