Theme 3.2 Crisis Leadership in the European Parliament

This theme focuses on the possibility for the EP to hold implementing institutions to account in economic governance. Accountability towards the EP is important to study because the economic and financial crisis has also resulted in a new type of economic decision-making, which combines intergovernmental decision-making with supranational implementation and supervision. Unlike the ‘pure’ intergovernmental and community methods, the post-crisis decision-making mode is not linked to ‘traditional’ parliamentary and legal accountability structures and do not introduce new models of accountability in their place.

Critics warn that the EU’s economic governance erodes its democratic legitimacy, as the ‘power of the purse’, usually resting with parliaments, has shifted to executive institutions at both national and EU-levels. The EP has not, however, been an idle bystander to its dwindling powers as it has been successful in introducing a range of provisions in EU acts to hold implementing bodies to account, such as the so-called economic dialogue. However, we know little about how the economic dialogue works in practice and if it serves the purpose of holding implementing institutions accountable (that is render an explanation for their conduct with the possibility of formal or informal sanctions).

Accountability is studied from various vantage points:

  • Formal parliamentary accountability: The first paper examines the form of, and variation in, the de jure provisions for accountability towards the European Parliament in all the EU’s economic and financial legislation introduced in the seventh parliamentary term (2009-2014). This includes 100 pieces of legislation, which were proposed by the European Commission in the seventh parliamentary term and finalised (i.e., appearing in the Official Journal of the EU) in either the seventh or eighth term. This study is important because we know little about the form that these accountability provisions take and the variation in the presence of the provisions. How do the implementing bodies render account to the EP? Are accountability provisions primarily introduced on files responding to the financial and economic crisis, or is the variation driven by other factors? The paper provides an overview of the formal accountability mechanisms in place towards the European Parliament in economic and financial legislation.
  • De facto accountability of member states towards the European Parliament: This paper examines the content of the exchange of views/economic dialogue between the European Parliament’s economic and financial committee (ECON) and finance ministers of countries breaching EU rules, either because their budget deficit and debt go beyond the required levels in the Stability and Growth Pact or because they suffer from macro-economic imbalances. The paper analyses to what extent the public hearings of finance ministers are just a play to the gallery (MEPs are seen to be doing something), or constitute tough scrutiny of member states. I will develop a typology of the types of questions asked by MEPs to the relevant finance ministers to hold them account of their economic and financial decision-making and examine the various roles, MEPs play during the public hearings.

Overall, this work package examines both de jure and de facto accountability of various institutions towards the European Parliament.

Theme co-ordinator: Maja Kluger Dionigi, Think Tank Europa


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Maja Kluger Dionigi (ThinkTank Europa) illustrates her interest in the informal agenda-setting power of the European Parliament in transboundary crisis management.

Maja Kluger Dionigi (ThinkTank Europa) illustrates how salience matters when it comes to the ways in which the European Parliament holds EU institutions to account.

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