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Parliamentary Institutions in Regional and International Governance

Functions and Powers
Book cover Parliamentary Institutions in Regional and International Governance
Author: Andrea Cofelice
Publisher: Routledge
Pages: 220
Price: Euro 29.59
ISBN: 9780367665456
Year: 2019
Review

Book Description

 

This volume offers an original and theoretically grounded conceptualization and measurement of international parliamentary institutions and their role in ensuring the accountability of regional international organizations. Through a comparative analysis of the establishment, evolution, institutional organization, oversight and policymaking functions of 22 parliamentary institutions, mainly from European, African and Latin American regional international organizations, the book serves a twofold purpose. First, it allows assessment of the extent to which parliamentary institutions have (measurable) influence on the outcome of regional organizations’ decision-making processes. Second, drawing on the literature on new institutionalism and comparative regionalism, the volume investigates the conditions under which the influence of parliamentary institutions is expected to grow, thus advancing the understanding of the variation and development of this poorly explored type of international institution.


The book is aimed at scholars of global governance, international organization and comparative regionalism, and will also be of interest to parliamentarians and parliamentary practitioners from national and international institutions.

Table of Contents

List of tables and figures

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Introduction 

What are the conditions?

A review of the literature on parliamentary empowerment 

New institutionalism

Comparative regionalism

Concluding remarks: two propositions on the empowerment of international parliamentary institutions

References 

Institutional features: appointment, representation and internal organisation 

Origins of parliamentary institutions and the "time factor"

Institutional setting of regional international organisations

Size and distribution of seats of parliamentary institutions

Selection modalities of members of parliamentary institutions

Time spent in plenary sessions and internal organisation

Groupings in the assemblies and required majorities

Concluding remarks: what do international parliamentary institutions represent?

References 

Parliamentary functions and powers 

Assessing the strength of parliamentary institutions: towards a "parliamentary powers index"

Policy-making: consultative and legislative functions Budgetary functions

Accountability: oversight and appointment functions

Concluding remarks: an overview of parliamentary functions and powers

References 

Explaining the empowerment of international parliamentary institutions 

Two main roads: between normative spillover and spurred emulation

Alternative strategies? The role of informal rules, inter-institutional alliances and the "parliamentarist ideology

References 

Conclusion

Appendix – Primary sources 

 

Introduction 

 


INTRODUCTION

The interest shown towards international parliamentary institutions (IPIS) and towards the role of parliaments in international affairs is constantly growing, alongside the expansion of their number, functions and importance within the international relations of a globalizing world. 

Yet, until relatively recently the literature on IPIS was dominated by the 'parliamentary decline' (or 'de-parliamentarization') thesis, which presents parliaments as losers in globalization. The dominant argument is that the rise of international governance and institutions, while helping states to respond collectively to problems that they cannot resolve effectively by themselves, is inevitably eroding their sovereignty. This occurs by essentially reducing the policy-making autonomy of national institutions in favor of global processes and actors, and by weakening traditional democratic accountability mechan- isms centered on national parliaments (Dahl 1994; Weiler, Haltem and Mayer 1995; Norton 1996; Andersen and Burms 1996; Raunio 1999; Katz and Wessels 1999; Beetham 2006; Keohane, Macedo and Moravcsik 2009). In other words, globalization has created a sort of mismatch between politics and democracy: while the substance of politics is fast globalizing (in the areas of trade, eco- nomics, and the environment, and so on), the processes of democracy are not following the same trajectory, since democracy's principal mechanisms and institutions (such as elections, political parties and parliaments) remain firmly rooted at the national or local level (UN 2004). 

Although it is not wrong, this thesis remains incomplete, since it does not consider the ways in which the representative institutions of democracy have adapted to the challenges of international policymaking and reacted to the erosion of their powers (Winzen 2017). However, the most recent litera- ture has begun to explore this dimension. Malamud and Stavridis (2011), in particular, found that parliaments have recently reasserted their role in international affairs in three major ways: firstly, by strengthening their oversight capacity vis-à-vis national governments' foreign policy (see also Martin 2000 ; Raunio and Hix 2000; Crum and Fossum 2009; Winzen 2017); secondly, by conducting parallel diplomatic relations, known as 'parliamentary diplo- macy', either at the bilateral, multilateral or presidential level (Stavridis 2002; Stavridis 2007; Baiocchi 2005; Dickmann 2005; Fiott 2011; Jančić 2012; Jančić 2017); and thirdly, by establishing and empowering parliaments as representative bodies of international, often regional, organizations. This third response will be explored in this book 

To begin with: what do we mean when we talk about IPIs? In general terms, an IPI can be defined as an institution in which "parliamentarians co-operate with a view to formulating their interests, adopting decisions, strategies or programs, which they implement or promote, formally and informally, in interactions with other actors, by various means such as persuasion, advo- cacy or institutional pressure '(Sabič 2008: p. 258). IPIS can be either attached to an international organization or can constitute one themselves; they can be either treaty-based institutions or informal networks of parliamentarians, whose members act in their private capacity, they can be either appointed by national legislatures or directly elected by universal suffrage. As the number of IPIS increased and their variety expanded over time, the literature has produced accurate and analytically useful categorizations, ranging from parsimonious two- way typologies (Sabiċ 2008) to more sophisticated legal and functional approches (Cutler 200I; Kissling 2011). ing these works goes beyond the scope of this book (the main definitions and categorizations are reported in Table I.1 below): suffice it to say that the notion of an IPI is used here in its broader meaning, i.e. as an umbrella concept covering all categories of international parliamentarianism, irrespective of their legal and functional status'. 

From a historical perspective, the emergence and growth of these institu- tions are associated with the changes and challenges occurring globally, mainly in the second half of the twentieth century. However, the history of IPIs is even longer. In this respect, three main waves can be identified in the historical evolution process of IPIs. These are the early phase (from 1889 to the 1940s); the Cold War period (the 1950s to the 1980s) and the era of the globalized or globalizing world (since the 1990s). 

In the early phase the foundation of IPIs derived from a wish to promote the creation of a permanent institutional structure for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. Indeed, according to its' founders original plans, the Inter-Parliamentary Union-the first IPI to be established, in 1889was to have served mainly as an arbitrator in disputes among states (Zarjevski 1989). This means that there is a link with conflict resolution from its commencement; hence an international relations concern from the start (Cofelice and Stavridis 2014). Until 1945 the InterParliamentary Union remained one of only three functioning IPIS, the others being the Nordic InterParliamentary Union, established in 1907 as a forum for co-operation between the members of the Scandinavian parliaments (this role was subsequently taken up by the Nordic Council, following its establishment in 1952), and the Empire Parliamentary Association, established in 1911 to connect parliaments from British dominions and self-governing colonies, which was renamed the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 1948. 

During the Cold War period the proliferation of IPIs was initially associated with the phenomenon of regional integration, which includes parliaments as part of a regional 'internal' process This process defmands accountability, legitimization and, potentially. a democratic dimension. As a consequence, IPIs have sought to acquire formal powers that mirror the traditional core competences exercised by legislatures at national level, namely: representation, oversight and the formulation of law and policy. More specifically, this phenomenon began in the aftermath of the Second World War, when "the public demand for a better transparency of decision-making in international politics came to the forefront of political debates, especially in Europe '(Sabič 2008: p. 260 ) This was particularly evident in 1948, when The Hague Congress of the European Movement launched a campaign for a unification of Europe and paved the way for the establishment of the Council of Europe, equipped with an assembly that originally had only a consultative role. In spite of these initial limitations, the Consultative Assembly, which in 1974 was renamed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, represents a milestone in the development of IPIs, since it was the first one to be established within a regional international organization (RIO). The Council of Europe's structure also served as a model for other regional organizations during the Cold War period. Indeed, all key Westerm European organizations gained a parliamentary branch during that time. In 1951, the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community was created; the Western European Union set up a parliamentary assembly as one of its main organs in 1954; in 1956, parliamentarians from the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to found the North Atlantic Assembly, which in 1999 was renamed the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Moreover, starting from the mid-1960s, the idea of ​​IPIS as a forum for facilitating dialogue and contacts among parliamentarians was increas- ingly pursued across other continents. Thus, the Latin American Parliament was established in 1964, the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1974, the Central American Parliament in 1975, the ASEAŃ Inter-Parliamentary Organization in 1977, and finally the Andean Parliament in 1979. 

The phase termed 'the era of the globalized or globalizing world ', which began in the 1990s, marks the real' boom 'of IPI development. Parliamentarians now tend to participate in international activities not exclusively through formal institutions, but also through informal transnational networks established almost everywhere in the world. 

As a consequence, the bulk of their activities have begun to shift from formal parliamentary functions to less conventional tasks. A non-exhaustive list includes: conducting parallel diplomatic relations (known as parliamentary diplomacy); acting as moral tribunes; lobbying governments and national legislatures to adopt specific policies or to ratify international instru- ments; providing democratic institutions with capacity building and technical assistance programs; upholding confidence-building and parliamentary socialization. According to several scholars, the systemic causes that led to this renewed activism of parliaments can be found in the complex impact of two main sets of factors: on the one hand, crumbling ideological walls no longer represented an obstacle to inter-parliamentary co-operation (Sabič 2008); on the other hand, the processes of globalization and regional co-operation / integration arrived at a new stage, generally labeled as' new regionalism (Hettne, Inotai and Sunkel 1999; Telò 2001; Van Langenhove and Costea 2007; Marschall 2007; Cofelice 2012b ), creating the need for stronger parliamentary backing. Considering their geographic proliferation and robustness over time (the dissolution of IPIs is indeed an extremely rare phenomenon '), the literature currently lists between 40 (De Puig 2008) and 100 (Kissling 2011) institutions as IPIs 

Alongside this historical evolution, the literature on IPIs has also expanded the scope of its interest over time to gradually include new research fields. More specifically, two main approaches have emerged so far: international relations (IR) theory, which encompasses 'world federalism' and 'cosmopolitan democracy', and the positivist empirical approach. 

The normative approaches of world federalism and cosmopolitan democracy, inspired by Kant's Perpetual Peace, represent the only pre-1990s school of thought to address IPIS as international actors-at least indirectly-and to attempt to project their role in the future (Sabič 2013) . In particular, their common aim is to outline a structure of the global order and a set of principles that would expand and sustain democratic governance, the rule of law and con- stitutionalism across national borders. According to this view, both approaches include the creation of a 'global parliament' as a long-term goal, since it would provide the necessary legitimacy to the constitutional global order. However, while world federalists are mainly focused on exploring the conditions under which the development of a world parliament becomes a realistic option (Levi 1993; Levi 2014; Falk and Strauss 2001; Baratta 2004), cosmopolitan democrats seem to accept that this plan may not be realized in the near future, and thus turn their attention to the practice of existing parliamentary institutions and to the creation of regional parliaments throughout the world as legitimate and independent sources of law (Held 1995; Archibugi and Held 1995; Marchetti 2008) . 

The literature started to deal with IPIs in empirical and comparative terms from the mid-2000s. Early works were particularly concemed with scrutinizing what these new actors in international relations can do, i.e. their functions and powers within the framework of policy- and decision-making processes of RIOS (Slaughter 2004; Marschall 2007; De Puig 2008). However, as was correctly pointed out by Sabič (2013), these works were affected by a serious selection bias, since they tended to consider only a small number of the currently existing IPIs This was especially true for the European Parliament (EP) and a few other European institutions. Undoubtedly, being the most institutionally and functionally developed IPI, the EP allowed scholars to develop a rich array of the- oretical arguments and hypotheses on its evolution and institutional dynamics. 

On the contrary, the literature on the majority of other IPIS has long remained scarce and largely descriptive. The main rationale behind this lack of interest is that IPIs, with the exception of the EP, are generally considered as weak insti- tutions, on the margins of policy- and decision-making processes. Slaughter, for instance, argues that they may have some success in certain areas (eg in addressing the 'democratic deficit' in trade organizations, or as catalysts for regional co-operation), but generally they 'exercise litile official power and rarely find themselves in situations where they can use the mechanisms of soft power information exchange, deliberation, persuasion-with much impact '(Slaughter 2004: p. 122). As a result, our knowledge about their establishment, evolution, institutional and functional organization remains rather limited and fragmented. The most recent literature has definitely broken with a Eurocentric approach and has contextualized IPIS 'role in the multilevel global governance and regionalization processes (see, in particular, Costa, Dri and Stavridis 2013), what still remains unexplained is the reason why the EP has been able to fully develop its functions and powers, while other IPIs have not succeeded in that.

Research questions, the structure of the book .. and some caveats 

This book provides a comprehensive comparative analysis of the establishment, evolution, institutional organization, accountability and policy-making func- tions of 22 IPIS mainly from European, African and Latin American RIOS (the full list of institutions is given in Table 1.2 below). While this list does not claim to be fully exhaustive of all possible case studies, since parliamentary institutions keep on flourishing almost everywhere in the world ", it is broadly representative of the population of existing IPIS established in the framework of Rios. 

The analysis serves a twofold purpose. Firstly, it allows us to assess the extent to which parliamentary institutions have (measurable) influence on the outcome of RIOS 'decision-making process. 

To this end, a "parliamentary powers index' is developed and used to explore the level of empowerment of the 22 IPIs under consideration, both in diachronic and synchronic terms. Secondly, drawing on the literature on new institutionalism and comparative regionalism, the book investigates the conditions under which the influence of IPIS is expected to grow. In this respect, the analysis reveals the existence of at least three different roads to the empowerment of IPIs, which are determined by a combination of both national domestic factors and regional organizations' designs. 

More specifically, while the regional design determines the presence (or absence) of the necessary structural conditions conducive to IPIs empowerment, domestic factors affect the causal mechanisms of this process, ie the kind of pathway that international parliamentary institutions may follow in order to become empowered. 

On the whole, the findings of this book allow us to overcome the frag-mented and intrinsically empirical nature of the current literature on IPIS and to move closer to an explanation of the variation and development of this little-explored type of international institution. 

The structure of the book is as follows. Chapter I introduces the main theore- tical argument aimed at explaining the process of IPIS 'empowerment, drawing upon two literature approaches, namely new institutionalism and comparative regionalism. As already mentioned, due to the relative scarcity of theoretical works on IPIS as a general category of international institutions, the main body of this literature is largely based on a single (although prominent) case, i.e. the EP. However, what appears to be a limit instead becomes the starting point of the research. Indeed, among the important implications deriving from the inclusion of the EP in the category of IPIS, surely there is the opportunity to test the validity of theoretical approaches accounting for its empowerment on other parliamen- tary institutions Indeed, as Moravesik argues, the EU provides the best laboratory for studying theoretical issues only just emerging elsewhere, such as threats of exit and exclusion, binding interstate legislative procedures, multi-level system and legal dispute resolution '(in Caporaso et al. 1997: p. 4). 

As a consequence of the diffusion of new regional groupings and parliamentary institutions in geo- graphical contexts other than Europe, this list could be expanded to include the discourse on the 'democratic deficit', the role played by parliamentary institutions and the conditions that may account for their establishment and development. Are the same conditions that determined the evolution of the EP working in other RIO ,, too? Or should we expect to observe different dynamics? On the other hand, is the lack of one or more of these conditions able to explain the lack of empowerment of other IPIS? 

In Chapter 2, several questions dealing with IPIS 'representational function and their internal organizational structure are tackled. Where and when have they been set up? How are they composed and internally organized? What are the main mechanisms by which their members are selected are they directly elected or appointed by national parliaments? Is the cleavage system within these institutions organized mainly along national or political lines? This analysis provides relevant elements to understand how IPls are established, organized and "legitimized". 

Chapter 3 specifically deals with the consultative, oversight, appointment, legislative and budgetary functions of IPIs. The main objective consists in exploring whether and to what extent these function-which are largely common to national legislatures have been 'acquired' by IPIs and adapted to the international context. These functions are then operationalized through the parliamentary powers index, which is used to assess the degree of influence that IPIs are able to exert over the decision-making process of RIOS 

The main rescarch question is finally tackled in Chapter 4, where we explore the conditions under which the influence of IPIs is expected to increase. The hypotheses emerging from the literature on new institutionalism and comparative regionalism are here tested vis-à-vis the 22 IPIs under consideration. 

The goal is to identify the structural conditions, as well as the causal mechanisms, that may favor (or hamper) IPIs 'empowerment. The test is performed by means of the Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) method (Ragin 1987; Ragin 2008; Schneider and Wagemann 2012), which, in addition to its suitability for 'small-to-intermediate-N' research designs (ie including between five and 50 cases), allows us to take into account different combinations of causal conditions-a situation that is very likely to be met in this kind of study. 

The broad scope of this research which contemplates the analysis over time of five functions for 22 IPIs established within as many RIOS-has made it necessary to accept some methodological compromises, which are worth mentioning here. 

First of all, with some noteworthy exceptions, the transparency of IPIs 'activity generally remains rather poor. Indeed, many of these institutions do not provide full access to information on their actual functioning and the outcome of their work, either through institutional websites or upon direct request, including adopted documents, minutes of the meetings, reports, debates, voting results, and I know on. Accordingly, it has been rather difficult to gather detailed background data for this research, even though the lack of primary sources has been compensated by additional secondary sources, such as academic works, press news, non-governmental organizations' reports and informal talks with officers and practitioners. 

Secondly, parliamentary powers have been mainly (but not exclusively) coded on the basis of content analysis of formal documents, such as treaties, rules of procedure, decisions, resolutions, etc. (A list of the primary sources consulted is contained in the Appendix). At least initially, formal documents provide a good proxy to detect the boundaries within which IPIs may exercise their powers. Even though these institutions may informally acquire new competences through unilateral assertions of new rules or favorable interpretations of existing ones (Hix 2002), sooner or later they tend to be formally recog- nized, thus becoming full parliamentary 'entitlements'. Despite the fact that the bulk of parliamentary competences are determined by formal rules, the latter are not always sufficient to fully understand the actual functioning of parliamentary institutions. In fact, there might be numferous informal norms that significantly impact the use they make of the functions with which IPIS are formally endowed. 

As a consequence, whenever relevant and possible, concrete evidence on how these powers are actually implemented is considered-especially in Chapter 3 in order to verify whether they remain on paper or if, and to what extent, they are actually used to influence RIOS ' decision-making 5 of 7 processes. 

Finally, in the course of the research more attention is paid to the 'depth' of parliamentary powers, i.e. the extent to which they are able to constrain intergovernmental decision-making processes, rather than to their scope how parliamentary institutions make use of their competences across policy areas This would indeed have required a much more time- and energy-consuming analysis which presumably could hardly be carried out by a single researcher in a reasonable amount of time. 

Nonetheless, some data are provided in Chapter 3, even though they fall far short of offering a systematic account of IPIS impact across different policy areas: this could well be a possible avenue for future research. 


Notes.


1. For a more detailed discussion of the main definitions existing in the literature, see Cofelice 2012a: Cofelice and Stavridis 2014.


2 Hettne and colleagues define 'new regionalism' as a multidimensional form of integration which includes economic, political , social and cultural aspects and thus goes far beyond the goal of creating region-based free trade regimes or security alliances (termed "first-generation or 'old' regionalism); rather, the political ambition establishing regional coherence and identity seems to be of primary importance (Hettne, Inotai and Sunkel 1999: p. xvi). It is important to point out that the two generations of integration should be seen neither as chronologically distinet phe- nomena, nor as a necessary evolutionary process from the first to second genera - tion, but rather as two coexisting and sometimes overlapping phenomena, since states may belong to different types of agreement at the same time. 


3 Two (isolated) examples are the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union was founded in 1954, but ceased to exist on 30 June 2011 due to the dissolution of the Western European Union as a treaty-based international organization. Some of its original functions have been transferred to the EU Inter-parliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), which held its inaugural meeting in September 2012, during the Cypriot Presidency of the EU (see Wouters and Raube 2012). Similarly, the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economie Community, estab- lished in 2001, ceased to exist in 2014 due to the dissolution of the Eurasian Economic Community: the newest Eurasian Economic Union, replacing the former Community, is not currently endowed with a parliamentary body. 


4 A case in point is represented by south-eastern Europe, an area that has recently experienced several (mostly unco-ordinated) sub-regional co-operation efforts, accompanied by the setting up of new IPIS (see De Vrieze 2015). 


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