Parliamentary access to information in two different yet similar domains: Economic and security governance compared

At first sight, parliamentary participation in Economic and Security governance within the European Union (EU) do not appear to have much in common. In particular, in the economic and monetary area many competences have been transferred to the EU level or, at least, the EU coordinates Member States policy, By contrast, the security area is still much more centred and operated at Member States level. Building on the presentations by previous speakers, my intervention will seek to highlight similarities and differences across national and European parliaments in these two policy areas. It will assess whether some best practices developed in one field could potentially be used in the other area to reduce the information asymmetries national parliaments suffer from vis-à-vis their governments. ​Additionally, the potential added value of inter-parliamentary cooperation as a means for European and national parliaments to gain information will also be examined.

Parliamentary control of Europol: challenges of collective access to information

Parliamentary control of security policies uncovers an apparent paradox: it relies on the sharing of information that is strictly put under executive dominance not to harm the essential security interests.

This issue is gaining renewed interest at European level after the establishment of the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG) on Europol. Access to sensitive non-classified or classified information retained by Europol for purposes of parliamentary control is shaped asymmetrically: pursuant to art. 52 Reg. EU 2016/794, it is explicitly recognised only to the EP, but not to the JPSG.

Based on a vision of parliamentary control of EU security policy as a shared task both of national parliaments and of the EP, the proposed paper discusses two alternative legal solutions. One addresses the EP’s legal duty to share this information within the JPSG. Another solution relates to the mediated access to information through national mechanisms of parliamentary control of Europol activity.

Parliamentary oversight between security exceptions and executive confidentiality

Parliamentary oversight requires accessibility of information. In foreign and security policy however, executive institutions have possession and discretion over (sensitive) information. Practice shows that oversight at times is not activated at all due to ‘deep secrets’, i.e. parliaments are unaware of certain executive action or its scope (the case with the PRISM programme and U.S. Congress), or information is limited to such extent that it impacts the capacity of parliaments to exercise control (the European Parliament regarding the SWIFT Agreement). This paper shows the dynamic and continuous process of adjustment of powers between parliaments and executive institutions in access to information. The paper argues that often accessibility to information becomes the main point of contention, curtailing institutional resources and detracting from debates on policy issues.

National parliaments and information asymmetries in the European Semester

This paper analyses information asymmetries in relevant procedures in the European Semester. The paper seeks to map the consequences for parliaments' standing and provide a contribution on the role of parliaments for checks of executive institutions in issues of finance in light of the many changes driven by the economic and financial crisis. Several measures were adopted to strengthen the European Economic and Monetary Union and to better coordinate European Union Member States fiscal and economic policies. One of these measures is the European Semester in which framework Member States interact with the Commission to guarantee sound public finances. Consequently, national budgetary authorities now operate in a more constrained framework. In particular, national parliaments' “power of the purse” has been affected as they are not always sufficiently informed and involved in these Euro-national procedures.