The Landtag in the EU

Stars on the European flagStars on the European flag

As many decisions are taken at the European level, it is in the interests of the Landtag Brandenburg to play an active role in the European discourse. In Germany, an increasing number of laws at both the federal and state levels are based on or implement European legal requirements. This means that the Landtag Brandenburg is also directly involved in the implementation of proposed EU legislation. In addition, support measures within the scope of EU regional/cohesion policy and EU agricultural policy are essential for European regions and municipalities – particularly for transition regions such as Brandenburg.

The committees and members of the Landtag have various options for taking part in the European discourse:

Committee of the Regions

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) represents the interests of the European regions in the EU, and has up to 350 members. It is to be consulted on the development of new legislation where this concerns regional affairs, although its recommendations are not binding. Germany is entitled to 24 mandates: these include one mandate per federal state and five additional mandates which are distributed among the federal states on a rotational basis. Insofar as two mandates are allocated to Brandenburg after this rotation, one mandate is usually exercised by the Landtag and one mandate by the government of the federal state.

Subsidiarity control mechanism

According to the principle of subsidiarity, the European Union can only act – except in those areas in which it has exclusive legislative authority – if action at European level is more effective than action at the national level and it therefore has an added European value.

In principle, this means that the smaller unit, i.e. the national level of the EU Member States or the level of the federal states and/or local authorities should be responsible first, as far as they are able to make appropriate and more relevant decisions – and therefore maintain a local rooting of policies as far as possible.

Within the scope of what is referred to as the early warning system, the European Treaties provide for the national parliaments of the EU Member States to partake in checking whether the European Union follows the principle of subsidiarity in its legislative procedures. If a national parliament considers a proposed legislative act of the European Union to be incompatible with the principle of subsidiarity, it may, within a period of eight weeks, deliver what is known as a reasoned opinion (a subsidiarity complaint) to the European Commission. The period begins when the draft law is available in all of the official EU languages.

Within the procedure of the subsidiarity control mechanism, each national parliament of a member state has two votes. In bicameral parliamentary systems, each of these chambers has one vote – in Germany, the Bundestag and Bundesrat.

In Germany, the governments of the federal states partake in the subsidiarity check via the Bundesrat – where they can decide whether the Bundesrat, as one of the two chambers, issues a reasoned opinion on an infringement of subsidiarity.

If, in turn, the Landtag Brandenburg issues an opinion regarding matters of subsidiarity, this will be incorporated in the further decisions of the government of the federal state – and therefore in the proceedings in the Bundesrat.

Statements of opinion and direct forwarding

Since 2006, the European Commission has been engaged in an informal political dialogue with the national parliaments. This dialogue dates back to what is known as the Barroso Initiative of 2006. José Barroso, the then President of the Commission, announced that all new proposals and consultation papers from the European Commission would be forwarded directly to the national parliaments. The national parliaments should be in a position to comment on these papers, as should governments, and to participate in the process of the development and implementation of policies.

Already in 2012, the European Commission made it clear that its offer would also apply to regional parliaments that have their own legislative authority. This provides an opportunity for the parliaments of the German federal states, irrespective of their participation in the procedure of the subsidiarity control mechanism, to become visible at EU level and to participate directly in European policy.

Therefore, if the Landtag adopts opinions or adopts general European policy decisions, these can be forwarded directly to the institutions of the European Union – such as the European Commission, the European Parliament or the Committee of the Regions.

Participation in consultations

Consultations are generally considered to be interviews and hearings which may be addressed to the public or specifically to stakeholders and experts outside the institutions of the European Union. Consultations are part of the Commissions Better Regulation working method, established in 2015, to enable the best possible decision-making on a factual basis and to support the proactive involvement of stakeholders and EU citizens in the EU legislative process. They are implemented at different stages of the legislative process – from the definition of political priorities prior to a proposal through to the final adoption of a measure.

In its online Have your say section, the European Commission provides an overview of all current consultations, indicating the subjects concerned and the possibility of being notified by email. There, you will find information on the individual consultation procedures as well as information on how to participate. The participation largely takes place directly by means of an online survey.

The target group for consultations is structured differently – it is frequently possible for both the Landtag to participate as a whole as well as individual members of the Landtag. EU citizens can also participate directly in many of the consultations of the European Commission.