After an interesting first day of the COSAC, the meeting of parliamentarians from all over Europe continued today. The second day of the conference had an early and somewhat atypical start for some participants. At 7 a.m. a group of participants headed through The Hague centre on an athletic morning run. Along their route, they passed Noordeinde Palace, the Peace Palace, Lange Voorhout and Binnenhof. Notwithstanding the rain, the exercise made for a fresh start to another exhilarating conference day.
The programme for Day 2 opened with a session featuring two members of the European Court of Auditors. Dutch senator Joris Backer introduced the session: “Why have we placed the European Court of Auditors on the agenda today? Because it affects all of us and all our commissions. We are convinced that auditing is a matter for us to exert influence at European levels and with national parliaments. On what did we spend our money in the EU? This question can be a good wake-up call for us.”
Alex Brenninkmeijer and Ville Itälä, both members of the European Court of Auditors, spoke with the parliamentarians about closer cooperation between the national parliaments and the Court of Auditors. Brenninkmeijer mentioned that “If we want to improve government at national and European level, there are lessons to be learned from past performances.” Brenninkmeijer also noted the need to explore ways to improve cooperation between the ECA and the national parliaments. There is not just one single way of working together; rather, the approach needs to be customised. Participants had the opportunity to debate with the members of the Court of Auditors and gratefully used the occasion. During the debate Itälä explained how important cooperation is between the European Court of Auditors and the national parliaments: “It’s very important that we get feedback on issues to decide what we do. Cooperation is key, we have to look to the issues such as food waste and migration issues and we have to give information to each other, for example to deal with error rates that are too high.” Itälä also spoke about accountability: “To achieve the goal of accountability, for example in agriculture, we need better regulations that can be implemented with fewer errors.”
The second session of the day focused on the very topical migration issue. Kamran Ullah moderated the discussion about the implementation of the agreements between the EU and Turkey. Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, introduced this topic and indicated in which areas the EU-Turkey Agreement is working, and where it is not: “Let’s make the Agreement work.” The lively panel debate that followed addressed the role of all member states in the migration issue. The EU should achieve its values, give and take and “show that this is serious.” That the migration issue is much discussed in the EU became clear from the large number of parliamentarians who then requested speaking time. They spoke about present needs, what will be required from Member States in the future and public opinion regarding migration.
Following the sessions the contributions were adopted. These primarily addressed opportunities for cooperation and mutual exchanges between parliaments. Afterwards, these contributions shall be brought to the attention of the European Parliament, the Commission and the Member States in a letter. Prior to the COSAC, the Dutch Parliament launched an essay contest. The winner of this contest, Andrea Finesso, addressed the parliamentarians present in the Hall of Knights this afternoon. He enlightened those in the Hall about how his generation views the future of the EU and the role of national parliaments there: “I speak as a young citizen who feels a great distance from the institutions. I do believe great involvement of national parliaments in the EU is important.” Next, the Slovak delegation had the opportunity to showcase the Slovak presidency, which will begin on 1 July 2016. Malik Azmani, chair of the Standing Committee on European Affairs of the House of Representatives delivered the concluding remarks: “I look back on a very fruitful conference. I would like to thank all the participants of the meeting for their active role in creating a lively debate.” This conference marks the conclusion by the Dutch parliament of the last of six successful conferences. Malik Azmani thanked all participants in the six conferences and all those who contributed.