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Inter-parliamentary cooperation and relations between parliaments and the European institutions

The growing importance of national Parliaments in the European Union following the Treaty of Lisbon has made it necessary to strengthen interparliamentary cooperation mechanisms. These mechanisms particularly relate to the Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments, which meets once a year and which produces guidelines for interparliamentary cooperation, and COSAC (Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union), which meets twice yearly and where MPs of the Parliaments of the twenty-eight Member States and Members of the European Parliament have the opportunity to exchange information and discuss matters of common interest, especially about legislative proceedings in progress at European level.

In addition to these two Conferences, the Parliament of the Member State that holds the EU Presidency may also organise Conferences every six months with the chairmen of certain specialised committees, such as the committees on justice and home affairs, budget and finance, agriculture, etc. At the Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments 2012, in Warsaw, it was established that an Interparliamentary Conference would be introduced to monitor the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Within the framework of interparliamentary cooperation, it is important to mention the network of Permanent Representatives of national Parliaments in Brussels ("PermReps"), which has become an essential network for the exchange of information on the positions adopted by each parliamentary Chamber on European initiatives, particularly following the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon and its provisions on the role of national Parliaments in the European legislative process.

In addition, the IPEX network publicises the work of the 40 parliamentary Chambers of the 28 Member States in the European affairs field, as well as the scrutiny of European draft acts, thus disseminating the work carried out at every moment by the national Parliaments.

The European institutions themselves - the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council - have also been developing and strengthening relations with national Parliaments and take into account the parliamentary opinions sent to them.

In particular, the European Commission has encouraged an increasingly intense political dialogue with each of the 40 parliamentary Chambers, inviting Parliaments to comment on the substance of initiatives proposed by the Commission and responding to comments made by national Parliaments.

Interparliamentary cooperation with the European Parliament has grown in recent years, mainly through the organisation of numerous interparliamentary meetings where national and European parliamentarians have had the opportunity to discuss matters on which they are working at their respective Parliaments.

This is arguably one of the areas that has grown most, both in intensity and in terms of the content of the interparliamentary meetings and the exchanges of information on European matters between the Parliaments of the EU, which does justice to the idea that the Treaty of Lisbon is above all the Treaty of Parliaments.

COSAC - Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union

COSAC is an interparliamentary body composed of six members of the European Affairs Committee of each of the Parliaments of the twenty-eight Member States and of the European Parliament and three observers from the Parliaments of candidate countries for EU accession. The Conference held its first meeting on 16-17 November 1989 in Paris, a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

COSAC was formally recognised by the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments annexed to the Amsterdam Treaty, which entered into force in 1999 and strengthened the role of national Parliaments and their involvement in the legislative process of the EU. The Treaty of Lisbon develops the content of this Protocol, and establishes COSAC as the parliamentary forum par excellence for promoting the exchange of information and best practices among national Parliaments and the European Parliament as regards the parliamentary scrutiny of European affairs. COSAC may also organise interparliamentary conferences on specific topics.

The Protocol establishes the role of COSAC as a mechanism for bringing together the MPs of national Parliaments and for liaison between them and the EU institutions, thereby enabling them to participate in the discussion of solutions to the problems facing European citizens at European level.

COSAC carries out its work at six-monthly meetings convened by the Parliament of the Member State that holds the Presidency of the European Union and, the end of each Conference, it may present a contribution to be sent to the EU institutions on the legislative activity of the EU, among other European policy issues.

The European Affairs Committee of the Assembleia da República has participated in the meetings of COSAC since the beginning, and has always been marked by active participation in the work and development of the Conference itself.

IPEX - Interparliamentary EU Information Exchange

IPEX is an interparliamentary online platform which provides information about the work of the 40 parliamentary Chambers on European matters. This network provides direct access to important documents related to the parliamentary scrutiny of draft acts and decisions taken at national and EU level and other information related to the activity of Parliaments in the EU.

The origin of IPEX can be traced to a recommendation by the Conference of Presidents of EU Parliaments held in Rome in 2000 to create an electronic exchange mechanism for exchanging information between national Parliaments and the European institutions, at the same time as providing access to important European documents to assist proper parliamentary scrutiny of European decision-making. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the role of national Parliaments was enhanced, making the interparliamentary exchange of information on each Parliament's scrutiny of European initiatives by the EU institutions even more necessary.

In practical terms, each parliamentary Chamber manages its scrutiny web pages and is responsible for publishing all the relevant documents related to the parliamentary scrutiny of European draft legislative and non-legislative acts. Similarly, the Chambers/Parliaments should use a range of symbols to indicate to others the relevance of the uploaded document, and should provide a short summary of the documents in English and/or French for documents written in the country s language. Documents are uploaded regularly by the IPEX correspondent of each parliamentary Chamber.

The information made available allows the users to find relevant information about the written/reasoned opinions adopted by the national Parliaments on specific issues. Apart from the above-mentioned documents, IPEX also allows users to consult the work of the European institutions by means of the calendar displayed on the website, access the European Commission's replies to the opinions sent by national Parliaments, and access the website of the Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments, among other options.