What does the Assembleia da República do in the area
of European affairs?
2. Who has responsibility
for European affairs in the Assembleia da República?
3. What does political
oversight of the Government mean in practice?
4. How does participation
by the Assembleia da República in the EU decision-making
process work in practice?
5. What is the parliamentary
6. What is the principle
7. How is the process
of parliamentary scrutiny carried out?
8. Where can I see the
results of this parliamentary scrutiny process?
1. What does
the Assembleia da República do in the area of European
Under the terms of the Constitution and Law
no. 43/2006, of 25 August 2006, as amended by Law no. 21/2012,
of 17 May 2012 (Monitoring, assessment and pronouncement by
the Assembleia da República within the scope of the
process of constructing the European Union), the Assembleia
da República acts essentially at three levels as regards
European affairs: it exercises political oversight of government
policy; participates in the European decision-making process
by analysing European initiatives and pronouncing on them
(scrutiny process); and participates in interparliamentary
meetings involving the national Parliaments of the 28 Member
2. Who has responsibility for European affairs
in the Assembleia da República?
Firstly, the President of the Assembleia da
República, who represents the Portuguese Parliament
at the Conference of Presidents of EU Parliaments and who
is responsible for sending the opinions of the Assembleia
da República to the European institutions.
Secondly, the European Affairs Committee, which plays a central
role in the political monitoring of and pronouncement on European
initiatives, tasks to which all the parliamentary standing
committees contribute depending on the subject matte .
3. What does political oversight of the Government
mean in practice?
Political oversight is exercised primarily
by the European Affairs Committee (EAC) in the form of hearings
involving Members of the Government, in particular the Secretary
of State for European Affairs before and after each meeting
of the European Council. It also hears other Members of the
Government, who are invited to brief MPs about the decisions
taken in the Council of the EU in their areas of government.
In parallel, every year the Committee reviews the Report on
Portugal's Participation in the EU, which is prepared and
presented by the Government. In addition to the hearings held
by the EAC, there are eight annual plenary debates about European
affairs, which includes the participation of the government:
a plenary debate with the participation of the Prime Minister
to be held before each European Council (at least four); a
plenary debate at the beginning of each presidency of the
Council of the European Union (two); a plenary debate on the
State of the Union; and, finally, a plenary debate on the
various instruments for the economic governance of the European
Union that are included in the European Semester.
4. How does participation by the Assembleia
da República in the EU decision-making process work
Participation in the European decision-making
process essentially happens at three levels: firstly, the
European Affairs Committee and the parliamentary committees
with responsibility for the matter in question participate
in the scrutiny of European initiatives on a regular basis;
secondly, an annual public hearing is held on the Work Programme
of the European Commission which is attended by Members of
the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Regions, Portuguese
MEPs, a representative of the European Commission and a Member
of the Portuguese Government; and thirdly, MPs participate
in interparliamentary meetings organised by the European Parliament,
national Parliaments and COSAC.
5. What is the parliamentary scrutiny process?
This is the name given to the process of monitoring,
assessment and pronouncement by the European Affairs Committee
and the parliamentary standing committees of the initiatives
- legislative and non-legislative - referred to them by the
In 2006, under the so-called "Barroso Initiative",
the European Commission initiated a political dialogue with
national Parliaments, according to which it undertook to refer
all the initiatives presented by the Commission on a daily
basis, inviting national Parliaments to examine these documents
and to present their opinions on the substance of the initiative
and the proposed solutions.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the practice
of sending European initiatives to national Parliaments was
formalised and extended to the other European institutions
(the Council and the European Parliament). At the same time,
the Treaty provided for the possibility of national Parliaments
being directly involved in the European decision-making process
through scrutiny of the principle of subsidiarity, under the
terms of Protocol 2 to the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Portuguese Parliament may therefore undertake the scrutiny
of each European initiative, that is, pronounce on the substance
of the initiative and compliance with the principle of subsidiarity
and send its opinion to the European institutions (the European
Commission, the Council and the European Parliament), and
to the Government for information.
6. What is the principle of subsidiarity?
The legal construction of the European Union
is founded on the principle of attribution, which establishes
that the Union only has the powers attributed to it by Member
States through the Treaties. It cannot act outside those powers,
leaving it to Member States to act. Among the various powers
attributed to the Union, some have been attributed on an exclusive
basis, meaning that only the Union can regulate such matters
(for example: customs union, monetary policy in those countries
that use the euro, the common commercial policy, etc) and
others have been partially attributed: the so-called shared
competences (e.g. the internal market, environment, transport,
energy, agriculture and fisheries, area of freedom, security
and justice, etc). In these cases, both the Union and the
Member States may regulate matters that fall into this category.
The principle of subsidiarity arises in the context of these
shared competences, as a consequence of the principle of attribution.
The Treaty states that “in areas which do not fall within
its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and
in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot
be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central
level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason
of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better
achieved at Union level”. In accordance with the Treaties,
the Assembleia da República (and other national Parliaments)
check whether, for a certain proposed legislative act which
falls within the scope of the shared competences, the best
level of decision is that of the Union or whether, instead,
the Member States themselves should regulate this matter.
7. How is the process of parliamentary scrutiny
The European Affairs Committee (EAC) receives
all European (legislative and non-legislative) initiatives
from the European Commission and the Council on a daily basis.
These initiatives are distributed to the competent parliamentary
committees according to subject matter.
Each competent parliamentary committee has
its own methodology for the parliamentary scrutiny of European
initiatives and, in accordance with it, appoints an MP to act
as Rapporteur and decides whether or not to scrutinise a particular
When it decides to scrutinise
a European initiative, it may request information from the
Government about Portugal's official position on that matter,
and may hold hearings involving Members of the Government,
experts, sector associations, among others, and may ask the
EAC or the Representative of the Assembleia da República
in Brussels for information about the scrutiny of this initiative
by other national Parliaments.
After completing the analysis of the initiative,
the MP acting as Rapporteur of the parliamentary standing
committee prepares a report, which is approved at a meeting
of the Committee and referred to the EAC.
In the European Affairs Committee, the European
initiative is distributed to a Committee member, who analyses
the initiative in the light of the Report of the parliamentary
standing committee. In particular, one of the responsibilities
of the MP drawing up the Written Opinion is to analyse the
legal basis of the initiative and its compliance with the
principle of subsidiarity, and to highlight any considerations
that the parliamentary standing committee has expressed on
the content of the initiative.
The Written Opinion is then discussed by the
EAC and, if approved, it is sent, together with the Report
of the parliamentary standing committee responsible for the
matter, to the President of the Assembleia da República,
who sends it to the European institutions (the European Commission,
the Council and the European Parliament) and to the Government,
and this becomes the position of the Portuguese Parliament
on the matter in question. In situations in which the European
Affairs Committee considers that the principle of subsidiarity
is breached, the Written Opinion is submitted to the Plenary
in the form of a draft Resolution.
8. Where can
I see the results of this parliamentary scrutiny process?
By consulting IPEX where, for each European
initiative, you can see the result of the scrutiny carried
out by each national Parliament, at
If you have not found an answer to your
question, please send us an
The Assembleia da República is developing a standalone
database, which will shortly enable users to consult the entire
scrutiny process of the Assembleia da República, the
names of the MPs acting as Rapporteurs and MPs responsible
for drawing up Written Opinions, and the work of the Committees.
It will make it possible to search for scrutiny processes
in progress and those that have been completed.