Scrutiny of European initiatives by the Assembleia da República
The Assembleia da República (AR) has specific competences in European matters attributed to it by Law no. 43/2006 of 25 August 2006, as amended by Law no. 21/2012 of 17 May 2012 and Law no. 18/2018 of 2 May 2018 – Monitoring, assessment and pronouncement by the Assembleia da República within the scope of the process of constructing the European Union – and by the Constitution and, lastly, arising from the Treaty of Lisbon, which contains a number of innovations on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union.
Accordingly, the AR may pronounce on matters pending decision in European Union bodies that fall within its reserved legislative responsibility (Article 161(n) of the Constitution) and monitor and assess, in accordance with the law, Portugal's participation in the construction of the EU (Article 163(f) of the Constitution).
Law no. 43/2006 of 25 August 2006, as amended by Law no. 21/2012 of 17 May 2012 and Law no. 18/2018 of 2 May 2018, states that the AR shall also pronounce on other initiatives of the European institutions (Article 1-A), specifically on the conformity of EU legislative proposals with the principle of subsidiarity (Article 3) and, in general terms, on EU policy documents and proposals for action (Articles 4 and 7), and sets out the parliamentary assessment process, which is summarised in the following diagram:
As shown in the flow diagram above, the AR, via the European Affairs Committee (EAC), receives the initiatives from the European institutions, and then refers them, depending on their subject matter, to the competent parliamentary committees, which may decide to draft a Report. At the same time, if the subject matter in question falls within the competence of the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Regions, these should be consulted. If the initiatives fall within the sphere of the Assembleia da República's exclusive legislative competence, the Government shall inform the AR and request an opinion, wherefore the Government shall in good time provide the AR with information containing a summary of the draft or proposal, an analysis of its implications and, if one has already been set out, the position which the Government wishes to adopt.
When the competent parliamentary committees approve a Report, it is sent to the EAC. The EAC then prepares a final Opinion, in which it pronounces on the compliance of a particular European initiative with the principle of subsidiarity and reflects any concerns about the substance of the proposal expressed by the committee with responsibility for the matter in question. This Opinion is considered and voted in an EAC meeting.
Finally, the Opinion approved by the EAC, together with the Report of the competent parliamentary committee, is sent to the European institutions and the Government and made available on the IPEX website, along with the pronouncement by the other Parliaments of the European Union.
In the event that the proposal under consideration is deemed to breach the principle of subsidiarity or has politically important implications for Portugal, the EAC may draw up a draft resolution for submission to the Plenary for discussion and approval.
The scrutiny of European initiatives described above must be completed within eight weeks, as established in the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon whenever the pronouncement by national Parliaments on the compliance of draft legislative acts with the principle of subsidiarity is involved.
It should also be mentioned that since the entry into force of Law no. 43/2006 of 25 August 2006, as amended by Law no. 21/2012 of 17 May 2012 and Law no. 18/2018 of 2 May 2018, the AR has successfully implemented a methodology for the systematic monitoring of European initiatives, which has generated important internal momentum involving the EAC and the standing parliamentary committees.
As part of this scrutiny process, the AR organises hearings involving members of the Government, Members of the European Parliament, Commissioners or others to discuss the content of certain European initiatives, cultivates a close relationship with the Permanent Representation of Portugal to the EU, so contributing to the formation of Portugal's position on a wide range of issues.