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Parliamentary Oversight of ESDP Missions

1 January, 2008



Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 Objectives and Methodology
1.2 Parliamentary Oversight of ESDP Missions: Scope and Issues

2. European Parliament Oversight of ESDP
2.1 ESDP Executive Decision-Making
2.2 European Parliament Oversight of ESDP

3. National Parliamentary Oversight of ESDP
3.1 EU-wide Survey on Parliamentary Oversight of ESDP Operations
3.2 Parliamentary Oversight of ESDP Missions in Six Selected Member States
3.3 Analysis: National Parliamentary Oversight of ESDP
4. Conclusions and Recommendations


Legislative oversight of executive decisions to deploy troops abroad is seen as a key agent of democratic legitimacy. However, parliamentary scrutiny of ESDP is at present deficient. The combination of supranational and intergovernmental elements that comprise the EU make for an ill-defined role for the European Parliament and its national equivalents in the realm of security and defence policy.

This Paper primarily explores current practices in the parliaments of EU member states for scrutinising ESDP decision-making. Oversight practices were investigated in four ESDP missions. The results of our research show that a democratic deficit of ESDP missions exists at European and at the national levels. Our findings outlined a wide variation among national parliaments with regard to important aspects of ESDP oversight: the legal basis for oversight; the power of prior approval; the handling of civilian versus military ESDP missions; the parliamentary interest in scrutinising ESDP; the executive practices of information-sharing with legislatures. This lack of uniformity has negative consequences for the effectiveness of Europe’s parliamentary oversight architecture. The European Union’s institutions and its decisional mechanisms add an extra challenge for the democratic legitimization of policy at national level. Even parliaments traditionally perceived as strong legislatures, who exercise the formal power to approve national participation in missions abroad, might fail to effectively participate in the decision making process on ESDP missions in Brussels. Civilian ESDP missions especially, in spite of representing the largest number of deployed European operations, fall through the cracks of parliamentary oversight, finding themselves in a larger democratic deficit than the ESDP military missions.

Four models of national parliamentary oversight of ESDP were identified from the research and 25 parliamentary best practices at the national level were collated. As a result of these findings at the national level, three groups of recommendations are put forward to strengthen the European Parliament’s role in filling the present void in ESDP parliamentary scrutiny through improved inter-parliamentary cooperation, enhanced cooperation with the Council and strengthen oversight practices within the European Parliament itself.