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Representation in the European State of Emergency: Parliaments against Governments?

Puntscher, S., Wydraa, D., (2013), “Representation in the European State of Emergency: Parliaments against Governments?”,  Journal of European Integration, Vol. 35, Issue 5, pp. 565-582.

If governments allow themselves to be entirely bound to the decisions of their parliament, without protecting their own freedom to act, a break up of Europe would be a more probable outcome than deeper integration.’ The statement of the Italian Prime Minister and head of the so-called ‘governo tecnico words have to be seperated ’ is one remarkable instance for colliding visions of representation in EU member states affected by the financial crisis. It exposes an old problem of representation: that is, representation of the whole versus representation of the parts. National parliaments are called to endorse the European decisions of their governments and simultaneously to sell the sacrifices to their constituencies. This development is conducive to clashes between parliaments and governments. The collision occurs between governments representing the Euro and Europe and national parliaments representing national voters’ interests.

Nevertheless in the period of analysis (2010–2012) the governments generally succeeded in commanding the majority needed to pass relevant legislation, whereby most intriguingly majorities were repeatedly formed by government and opposition parties. We are interested in the analysis of how this came about, how MPs argued over and negotiated the outcome. The hypothesis is twofold: First, we expect that despite reservations the majority consents because entrapped in a European discourse, building on arguments of how the rescue mechanisms are in the best European as well as national interests. Second, budget competence being the ‘crown jewel’ of parliaments these are anxious to keep control of decisions taken at the European level and have to be satisfied through side-payments or constitutional concessions strengthening their control function. To test our hypothesis we analysed parliamentary debates and negotiations of national parliaments in three member states: Germany, Italy and Austria.