On Monday 13 June 250 parliamentarians and delegation staff from all over Europe gathered in The Hague for the plenary COSAC meeting. The COSAC is intended as an exchange of information and best practices between the different national parliaments. Members of the European Parliament participated in the conference as well. Participants were welcomed by President of the Dutch Senate Ankie Broekers-Knol. In her speech, she mentioned how Europe must cope with the instability we face.
“It is of vital importance that we find a way to protect and safeguard our free, open, democratic society and that we stand firm to uphold the rule of law. Parliamentarians have an important role to play on that score. The rule of law is the foundation for the basic values of the EU. These values form our European identity. And national and European parliamentarians all share a responsibility to protect that identity.”
After these opening statements, the agenda was adopted under the aegis of Tuur Elzinga, and the results of the Troika meeting held yesterday evening were shared.
Next Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed the participants. In his speech he reflected on the Dutch presidency of the Council of the European Union. He indicated that national parliaments, if they work together, can be important operators in the EU: “National parliaments can play a key role. A single parliament can play a limited role. Together the national parliaments can achieve great things: you can give the parliaments the loudest voice in the EU.”
The parliamentarians were then given the opportunity to put questions and comments to the prime minister. These included the consequences of the outcome of the advisory referendum on the Association Agreement with Ukraine, the involvement of the national parliaments in the debate about TTIP and the migration issue.
During the first session the parliamentarians discussed ways of exercising parliamentary scrutiny of EU dossiers. At this session, which was moderated by Dutch House of Representatives member Marit Maij, the discussion topics included use of rapporteurs and procedures for the yellow or green card. The “trilogues” were discussed as well.
To conclude the morning session, Marit Maij interviewed Euro Commissioner and First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans. They discussed the tools available to national parliaments for influencing European policy. Maij asked Timmermans about his ideas on the different card procedures, and how they might be used in political dialogue.
Following the recent yellow card regarding the possibility of differences in payment of labour migrants, Timmermans argued that the European Commission should start discussing the underlying political problem and should not adopt a purely formal position. He mentioned his own frustrating experience as a minister, when the EC instantly disregarded a yellow card concerning a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. “Of course those cards concern subsidiarity and proportionality, but I believe that, as the Commission, we need to discuss the political problem as well.”
He mentioned that the procedures in Brussels should not be too protracted: more time does not necessarily improve quality: “we take a terribly long time with legislation.”
In his discourse Timmermans also emphasized several times that openness is important: everybody, including the national parliaments, needs to know what’s cooking in Brussels.
During the lunch break two informal side sessions were held. The Dutch rapporteurs for the Single European Sky (SES) organized a meeting on the implementation of the SES. At the initiative of the Estonian parliament an additional informal session was dedicated to the collaborative economy, on which the parliamentarians from Estonian wished to exchange ideas with fellow parliamentarians.