Many of these ideas were discussed at a seminar in The Hague in January, organised by the Dutch Cingendael and Brussels CEPS think tanks. A short report on the outcome of the meeting is available online and lists over 30 potential reforms to improve democratic legitimacy and accountability. Some are more concrete than others but here are a few of them:
- Give one of the European Commissioners a subsidiarity portfolio.
- Negotiate a political agreement between the Council and the Commission (possibly involving the European Parliament as well), determining certain domains or certain issues where the European institutions will refrain from further initiatives. A closely related alternative is the idea of a moratorium, agreeing not to present new proposals in a specific area for a certain period.
- Establish a separate subsidiarity court to monitor EU legislation.
- Encourage a proactive approach by EU and national legislators to prevent unintended interpretation by the European Court of Justice.
- Ensure that the European Parliament, taking advantage of its role in selecting the next Commission President, does not dictate the agenda to the Commission.
- Introduce ex post subsidiarity control on existing EU legislation to demonstrate whether subsidiarity was respected and to justify the necessity of EU legislative acts on a case-by-case basis. Both member states and the EU institutions should be involved.
- Introduce an informal ‘red card’ for national parliaments, by proposing the political agreement that the Commission will use its discretion to withdraw legislation if one-third of national parliaments raise subsidiarity objections.
- Introduce a ‘late card’, giving national parliaments the opportunity to voice their concerns at a later stage of the ordinary legislative procedure.
- Introduce a ‘green card’ for national parliaments, which would give them the option to table a joint legislative proposal if a substantial number of member states’ parliaments support it.
As our pan-European reform conference showed, there is growing momentum for change in the EU that extends beyond the UK.