Parliaments facing security emergencies: more public fora than decision-makers

Parliamentary scrutiny of security policies is probably the last frontier of representative democracy. Over the last decades, much progress has been made in Western countries in order to limit executive dominance in the security domain, reinforcing political safeguards based on the involvement of Parliament. However, in emergency frameworks, when major threats are at stake, parliaments’ ability to influence the balance between security and other constitutional values meets serious constraints. This is particularly true in parliamentary systems. The analysis of how Parliaments in Europe have scrutinised crucial decisions affecting State security in the ‘war on terror’ following the 9/11 attacks and in the 2022 Ukraine armed conflict demonstrates that under such circumstances legislatures tend to act more as public fora than as proper decision-makers as their legislative and oversight functions are constrained by external pressures and information asymmetries.