The 'Legislative Backbone' Keeping the Institution Upright? The Role of European Parliament Committees in the EU Policy-Making Process
European Integration online Papers (EIoP), Vol. 5, No. 10, August 21, 2001
29 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2002
Over the past five decades the European Parliament (EP) has moved from being a largely consultative assembly to being a genuine co-legislature. The growth in the EP?s powers was accompanied by a revaluation of its Standing Committees. It is in these committees, the "legislative backbone" of the EP, that scrutiny of European Union (EU) legislation takes place. As in the US Congress the "real" work of the Parliament is done in its committees. They have become a key element in the EU policy-making process and make vital contributions to the shaping of legislation.
Although these committees play such a major role in the EP, they have rarely been the subject of empirical inquiries. This paper, which is part of a wider project studying the role of committees, intends to fill this gap. In an examination of how legislative acts have been processed by such committees on the basis of interviews and documentary analysis, this paper focuses on the following main questions: 1. How do EP committees operate? 2. How do they interact with other institutions within the EU system of governance? 3. How do they affect the "link" to the EU citizen? From an analytical perspective answers to these questions are important as they help us to understand some characteristics of the EU decision-making process. From a normative perspective our research also tries to answer the question of whether EP committees help increase the EP's accountability to EU citizens.
Keywords: European integration, accountability, co-decision procedure, comitology, European Parliament, political science
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