In addition to the German Bundestag’s constitutionally enshrined participation in matters concerning the EU, there are a variety of forms of cooperation between the Bundestag, the national parliaments of the other EU member states and the European Parliament. Interparliamentary cooperation within the EU has gained in significance considerably in recent years.
Cooperation with the European Parliament
Even before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, the European Parliament and the national parliaments had developed various forms of cooperation in order to improve the monitoring, transparency and legitimisation of European decisions. Article 12 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) expressly states that the national parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union by taking part in the interparliamentary cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament, along with various procedures.
In order to provide continuous information about its activities, the European Parliament transmits its resolutions and other documents to the national parliaments. Some of these documents are passed on to the committees for deliberation. German Members of the European Parliament also sit on the Bundestag’s Committee on European Union Affairs, where they are entitled to speak but have no voting rights. They inform the Members of the Bundestag about the progress of legislation as it passes through the European Parliament and discuss current topics with them. There is also an active exchange between the Members of the Bundestag and their colleagues in the European Parliament at parliamentary group level.
At the initiative of the parliament of the country holding the EU presidency and of the European Parliament, regular meetings are held between the parliaments and their committees, at which joint initiatives at European level are discussed. These meetings take place in either the capital city of the country holding the presidency or in Brussels. Interparliamentary meetings on a larger scale are usually dedicated to cross-cutting issues, while the committees focus on specific specialised topics or legislative proposals at their individual meetings and joint sessions. Joint hearings are also held. Members of the national parliaments can attend ordinary meetings held by the European Parliament’s committees at any time.
Permanent interparliamentary conferences
COSAC: Representatives of the national parliaments’ committees on EU affairs and the European Parliament meet every six months in the framework of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), founded in 1989. COSAC aims to promote the exchange of information and best practices between the parliaments of the European Union. It regularly deals with fundamental European topics that form the focal points of the respective presidency programme, or those currently of particular relevance. In addition, it also takes up institutional matters and questions of the parliaments’ participation in various areas of EU legislation. Each parliament sends six of its Members; representatives of parliaments in EU accession countries, the EU Commission and the Council are granted observer status without voting rights. COSAC meetings are organised and hosted by the parliament of the member state that holds the Council presidency, with preparations regularly taking place at a meeting of the chairs of the committees on EU affairs. COSAC plenary meetings are attended by four Members of the German Bundestag and two representatives from the Bundesrat.
IPC CFSP/CSDP: To strengthen parliamentary scrutiny in the realm of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CFSP/CSDP), in 2012 the national parliaments and the European Parliament established the Interparliamentary Conference for the CFSP/CSDP , which meets twice a year. The conference has no decision-making powers, but instead serves to provide a framework for an exchange of information and best practices on CFSP and CSDP between the national parliaments and the European Parliament. In concrete terms, delegates discuss European neighbourhood policy or the development of common defence capabilities, for example. Members also meet with the Council Presidency, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy and other representatives of the European Commission. The parliaments of EU accession countries and European NATO member countries have observer status and also send delegations to the conference. The German Bundestag is represented at the IPC CFSP/CSDP by up to six Members.
SECG Conference: As enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (Fiscal Stability Treaty), delegations from the national parliaments and the European Parliament have met regularly since 2013 in order to discuss economic, financial and budgetary policy in the EU. The forum for this is the Interparliamentary Conference on Stability, Economic Coordination and Governance in the European Union (IPC SECG), held twice a year. The conference deals with matters of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms, the future of the economic and monetary union including its social dimension and the banking union, along with tax questions. It is hosted early each year by the parliament of the country holding the Council presidency, together with the European Parliament; a second conference in the autumn is organised by the parliament of the country that holds the Council presidency. The Bundestag sends nine of its Members to the conference, with up to two representatives from the Bundesrat attending.
EUROPOL Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group: In the field of police cooperation within the EU, the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on EUROPOL was established in 2017, consisting of members of the national parliaments and the European Parliament. EUROPOL, the European Police Office, is the law enforcement agency of the European Union. Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, the agency supports the 27 EU Member States in the fight against serious international crime and terrorism. In line with Article 88 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) the scrutiny of Europol's activities is carried out by the European Parliament together with national parliaments. On the basis of the rights to information enshrined in the EUROPOL regulation, the JPSG can make the results of its work public. The group meets twice a year, with the first meeting taking place in the parliament of the member state that holds the Council presidency, and the second meeting in the latter half of the year at the European Parliament. In addition, extraordinary meetings can be convened if necessary. The Bundestag and the Bundesrat each send two Members or representatives to the group. The German Bundestag, together with the European Parliament, will assume the chair of the group in the second half of 2020.
Other forms of cooperation
Conference of the Speakers of European Parliaments (EUSC): The annual Conference of the Speakers of European Parliaments acts as a forum for an exchange on fundamental European policy matters and the coordination of joint parliamentary activities. The aim of the conference is to boost the role of the national parliaments in EU affairs. In addition, it provides a platform for an exchange on European topics of particular importance to the national parliaments and for interparliamentary cooperation. The EUSC also took the decision to establish the IPEX online database, which allows the parliaments to better coordinate subsidiarity checks and the exchange of EU-related documents.
ASGP: In preparation for the EU Speakers Conference, the heads of the administrations (the Secretaries General) of the national parliaments and the European Parliament meet regularly at the beginning of the year. In addition to the topics of the next EUSC, matters relating to IPEX and other subjects of general interest to the parliaments are discussed. The Bundestag is represented at these meetings by the Secretary-General of the German Bundestag.
IPEX: The IPEX (InterParliamentary EU information eXchange) online platform has been set up to facilitate communication between the parliaments of the EU member states EU, those of the candidate countries, and the European Parliament about EU initiatives, in particular the delivery of reasoned opinions and subsidiarity objections, and as a means of parliamentary exchange on the state of deliberations on important EU proposals in the national parliaments. In addition to documents on EU proposals and information from the national parliaments on the respective legal foundations for treatment of EU matters, IPEX features a calendar and extensive information on interparliamentary conferences, meetings and events. The German Bundestag uploads subsidiarity objections and important opinions on EU proposals to IPEX in German, English and French. In March 2021, the German Bundestag will take over the chair of the IPEX Board for one year.