Andreas von Gehlen
Together with the Council, it controls (at present about 70% of) the decisions made by the Commission; the Amsterdam revision of the treaty has given to European parliamentarians the same ultimate sanction enjoyed by their colleagues in the Member States: the vote of no confidence (in the Commission as a whole). With respect to the other executive body of the EU, the European Council, the European Parliament still lacks the instruments of control enjoyed by national parliaments; control of individual councillors is still widely seen as the responsibility of the national parliaments.7 The European Parliament has received only gradually the third parliamentary function in representative democracies, legislative power. The relative extent of its ‘nonparticipation’ has decreased considerably, from over 70% at the time of the EEC treaty to 35% with the taking of effect of the Treaty of Nice.8 Within the framework of the legislation, jurisdiction over budgets is emphasised as one of the functions of national parliaments; here the areas of competence of the national parliaments correspond to those of the EP. The expansion of parliamentary powers has not been matched, however, by a re-evaluation of the role of parties at the Community level. This stems primarily from the fact that European parliamentarians are elected nationally, which reserves to the parties in the Member States (and/or regional administrative bodies) the main function of political parties, the selection of candidates. Further development of the European party federations …
It is clear, then, that the European level in particular lacks the abovementioned link between citizens and the state. European parties have existed by name since the middle
of the seventies. With respect to the transfer of democratic legitimacy, however, they do not possess the basic tools which would allow them to express the political will of citizens, tools comparable to those possessed by their parent national parties. Thus, citizens can only express their overall agreement with the European integration project in elections. Public participation in individual decisions of European community bodies must be regarded as insufficient. Political science has not yet come to a consensus on the question of to what extent the democratic legitimacy of the Community is necessary and from what sources it should be derived. Two trends are evident in academic publications. Oriented in the ideal type of national legitimacy transfer, the majority aims to legitimise the European Union independently. Meanwhile, those who advocate a European legitimacy that is derived via transfers from the Member States are increasingly in the minority. The party systems in the EU member countries (British exceptionalism is to be noted) obtain democratic legitimacy due to their ability to express the political will of the citizens. By representing those in the state organs, the parties ensure the acknowledgment of the political systems, which is attached to several determinants: they must be, among other things, lawful, guarantee the equal representation of citizens and maintain democratic organisational structures. To achieve this, parties are organised hierarchically: legitimacy flows from the individual member through the local, regional and national levels of the party up to the European-wide level. … no autonomous European party system! The German expert in constitutional law Hans
Huber 2001: 16; Maurer & Schild 2003: 27. Maurer 2002: 198; Nentwich & Falkner 1997: 2 et sqq.
Volume 3 - Spring 2006
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy