Will the Real Scrutinizer Please Stand Up? The Role and Control of the French European Affairs Committee Over Its Executive

Authors

  • Maud Bachelet

Keywords:

Parliament, France, Committee, oversight, EU politics

Abstract

While traditionally considered the losers of European integration, scholars argue that national parliaments have clawed their way back to European affairs. The Lisbon Treaty has also sought to formally empower the national legislatures. However, little academic attention has focused on studying through which channels national parliaments have a say in the supranational arena. This explorative research aims at tackling this issue by analyzing what role the French European Affairs Committee (EAC) plays in EU affairs’ scrutiny and control of the executive. Through a qualitative design based on interviews with EAC members and content analysis, this paper shows that this French committee makes use of police-patrol oversight, rather than fire-alarm scrutiny to follow its executive’s behavior in the EU. However, the EAC remains legislatively powerless in the face of EU negotiations in the Council. Interviews reveal nonetheless that this is not perceived as a problem, as many respondents explain that national interests align at the supranational level, regardless of one’s political affiliation. This contradicts the argument of the importance of opposition in scrutinizing executive conduct. Instead, the French EAC is best conceived as an information hub, for other deputies and citizens, which reinforces the communicative function of the national legislature. This, in turn, questions the legitimacy of empowering national parliaments to solve the democratic deficit of the EU.

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Published

2022-01-07