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Monitoring of European affairs 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, Law no. 18/2018 of 2 May 2018 and Law no. 64/2020 of 2 November 2018 – regulating the monitoring, assessment and pronouncement by the Assembleia da República within the scope of the process of constructing the European Union –, by the Constitution itself, 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 itself 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, under the law, Portugal's participation in the process of constructing the EU (Article 163(f) of the Constitution).

 

I. Political oversight of the Government within the scope of the European Union

Article 4 of Law no. 43/2006, in its current wording, provides for the means of overseeing Government activity in the field of European affairs by the Assembleia da República, either through debates in committee or through debates in plenary.

 Debates in plenary, in which the Government takes part, materialise as follows:

· Debates to prepare and assess European Councils (twice each semester, with the participation of the Prime Minister);

· Debate at the beginning of each Presidency of the Council of the EU on its priorities;

· Debate on the annual Government report on Portugal's participation in the EU;

· Debate on Portugal's participation in permanent structured cooperation;

· Debate on the economic governance instruments that are part of the European Semester, including the Stability and
  Growth Programme;

· Debate on the State of the Union, following its debate in the EP.


Debates in committee materialise as follows:

· Procedural hearings, at least four times per legislative session with the member of the Government;

· Hearing in preparation for the European Council, where the plenary debate has not previously taken place;

· Hearings with the member of the Government after each meeting of the European Council to assess its conclusions;

· Joint meetings with members of the Government and other committees, before or after Council meetings in their  
  different configurations;

· Hearing ahead of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers on permanent structured cooperation;

· Debate, in the presence of the member of Government, on the European Commission's Work Programme;

· Hearing of persons nominated or appointed by the Government for positions in institutions, bodies or agencies of the
  European Union;

· Hearings at the request of parliamentary groups;

· Hearing of the ambassador of the Member State holding the Presidency of the Council to express their views on the
  priorities.


II.  Scrutiny of European initiatives

Law no. 43/2006, in its current wording, provides that the AR also pronounces itself on other initiatives of European institutions (Article 1-A), in particular on the compliance of EU legislative proposals with the principle of subsidiarity (Article 3), listing the parliamentary scrutiny process, which can be summarised as follows:

 

As shown in the flow diagram above, the AR, via the European Affairs Committee (EAC), receives the initiatives emerging 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, where the European initiative's subject matter falls within the competence of the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Regions, these should be consulted. Where the initiatives fall within the sphere of the AR's exclusive legislative competence, the Government must inform the Assembleia da República and request an opinion, wherefore the Government must 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 itself on the compliance of the 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 on 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, together with the pronouncements by the other European Union parliaments.

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 voting.

The scrutiny of European initiatives described above must be completed within eight weeks, as laid down in the Treaty of Lisbon, where 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, Law no. 18/2018 of 2 May 2018 and Law no. 64/2020 of 2 November 2020, 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 consideration process, the Assembleia da República holds hearings with members of the Government, Members of the European Parliament, Commissioners, civil society, 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.