The final determinant of the union's competence in any matter lies with the European Court of Justice. This makes the European Court of Justice the highest constitutional forum in Europe dealing with matters of dispute inter-se the national states and the Union itself. The end product is an elegant scheme which allows for maximum sovereignty and sense of participation to the individual citizen and which minimizes the impact of democratic deficit substantially. The central feature which brings balance is the review option available to national parliaments by 1/3rd vote. This is the main policing power of the national parliaments by which they enforce their prerogative and power to interpose, though interposition in Europe works both ways. (TEU; Protocol No. 2). Therefore the 1/3rd clause operates as a veto and because national parliaments each have equal say, it is the most important check the national parliaments have especially when it comes to protecting the interests of smaller nations and members of the European Union.
What provisions in the Treaties (and attached Protocols) deal with the role of national Parliaments?
Articles/protocols applicable to National Parliaments
In so far as the articles that apply in terms of establishing competences of the Union vis national parliaments are:
1. Article 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Lisbon Treaty. Discussion above.
2. Article 12 of TEU. National parliaments would receive drafts at the same time as the European parliament and would review them for enforcement of subsidiarity and proportionality as well as proposing amendments thereto.
3. TEU Protocol No. 1.
4. TEU Protocol No. 2 -- the power to police subsidiary. This gave the national parliaments power to call for a review by getting 1/3rd of national parliaments to requisition one.
5. Part IV of the European Constitution Treaty of 2004 which was ultimately consigned to record.
(c) How is the role of the European Parliament strengthened?
The role of the European Parliament
The role of European Parliament has been one of creating a strong organic center which, though limited to common subjects lying within the competences granted to it by the treaty arrangements, is still an effective center.
The rejection of the European Constitution came as a blow to those aspiring to create a United States of Europe but what was not achieved directly has been achieved indirectly. The idea of a responsible legislature with a watered down form of executive along with a judicial branch has the trappings of a super (multi)national State bound by a de facto constitution through a treaty arrangement.
On the face of it, national parliaments -- the middle tier -- seem to have the most direct say into what is going to be legislated in most instances. These national parliaments are bound by national constitutions and national laws. However, wherever it is felt that the policy of a national parliament is inadequate or in contravention to established European objectives, the principle of proportionality allows the European Parliament to act.
Thus on paper limited as these powers may be, the competences of the European Union may extend to each and every case where it feels that its treaty objectives are not being met. The treaty obligations thus bind the individual nations in this union that makes the scope of the European Union's European Parliament a catch-all. This then is something more than a confederation. In theory, when required the European Union can act as a highly centralized state. This allows for a flexibility that is unique and novel in human history -- a devolved three tiered confederation that can act as a unitary state if need arises.
1. Bonde, J.P. From EU Constitution to Lisbon Treaty. Foundation for EU Democracy and the EU Democrats. ISBN 87-87692-71-6."
2. Council of the European Union "Lisbon Treaty: The making of" (PDF).
3. House of Lords; Select Committee on EU -- 10th Report 2007 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldeucom/62/6205.htm
4. House of Commons, 33 rd Report of 2007-2008 Session, European Scrutiny Committee