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EU and Parliamentary Democracy


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master International Relations, track European Union Studies.


This course focuses on the democratic dimension of EU-decision making. Democracy is often equalled with parliamentarisation, as ‘the functioning of the EU is founded on representative democracy’ (art. 10, TEU). The competences of the European Parliament, the first institution mentioned in the Treaty, which represents the European citizens based upon direct elections, have been gradually extended through subsequent revisions of the treaty. The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, which is now nearly 5 years old, expands the competences of the European Parliament even further. But its institutional empowerment vis-à-vis the member states, united in the Council notwithstanding, most European citizens do not feel themselves ‘represented’ by the European Parliament and ‘vote with their feet’ by collectively abstaining in successive EP elections. Members of European Parliament are not well known by their national electorates. It seems therefore that legitimation of European decisions should primarily come from national parliaments, which control the actions of their governments in the Council. The no demos thesis, articulated by the German Constitutional Court in its 1993 Maastricht judgment, basically claims that since there is no European “demos”, integration must rely on domestic institutional mechanisms like the Bundestag or the Tweede Kamer. But whilst European cooperation in times of crisis makes bold steps towards common decision-making, precisely this process has weakened the position of national parliaments when it comes to Europe. National Cabinets actively engage in blaming ‘Brussels’ for unpopular reforms whereas taking credits for its policy successes; individual parliaments are inadequately equipped to control complex policy-making processes and EU decision making goes too fast behind closed doors in order for transparent processes of public accountability. The Lisbon Treaty was the first to offer remedies, again, in the form of institutional empowerment, including an ‘ early warning mechanism’ in the form of a yellow and orange card procedure. The background of all these new provisions to strengthen parliaments both at the EU level and within the member states lays in a widely felt need to enhance the legitimacy of the integration process by giving parliaments more powers. How do parliaments use these new competences; what is necessary for both the EP and national parliaments to perform their tasks? And does the problem not run deeper: to what extent do people feel represented by the work of both the EP and national parliament? In times of European crisis, there is widespread concern and criticism of European politics. Opponents argue that in order to bridge the legitimacy gap between parliamentarians and the electorate, more radical solutions are necessary for the democratisation of the EU, including citizen initiatives and referenda. Perhaps in a careful policy mix lies the basis for a solution to a more democratically founded Union.

The course EU and Parliamentary Democracy gives students insights into these democratic dimensions of the European integration process. It sheds light on the competences of the European Parliament and the involvement of national parliaments in making EU policy. But most importantly, discussions in the course focuse on the practices of EP and national parliaments’ dealings with the EU. New venues in interparliamentary relations such as parliamentary representation, COSAC and IPEX are explored. Recent experiences in parliaments with Treaty innovations such as the subsidiarity check are discussed. And the current discussion on the democratic dimension of the strengthened EMU makes for prominent discussions on the future role and development of parliamentary democracy in the European Union.
The course consists of lectures, discussions with practitioners and paper work. The final examination is in the form of an essay. Preparation of the meetings, active participation and paper work is obligatory.

Dr M. (Mendeltje) van Keulen is the clerk of the EU Affairs Committee of the House of
Representatives of the States-General (Tweede Kamer) and co-ordinator of the parliamentary EU staff. She was a senior research fellow European Studies at the Clingendael Institute for International Affairs and a member of various advisory councils to the government (WRR, Raad voor Verkeer en Waterstaat). Mendeltje van Keulen studied EU politics and administration at the College of Europe in Bruges (Von Humboldt Promotion, 2000) and European Public Policy at the University of Twente. Her PhD discussed Dutch EU policy making in the 1990s (Going Europe or Going Dutch? How the Dutch Government Shapes European Union Policy, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006). She regularly lectures and publishes on EU parliamentary affairs, EU coordination and EU policy making.

Course objectives

Students will acquire insight into the democratic dimensions of EU-decision making, the powers of the EU parliament and position of the national parliaments both from a historical perspective as well as the current situation. They will be familiar with the relations between them and the relevant provisions in the treaties.


See the website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load for the course: 5 EC is 140 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures: 4 hours per week x 6 weeks = 24 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and preparation for the lectures: 6 hours per week x 6 = 36 hours

  • Preparation for the paper: 80 hours

Assessment method

An active presence during the sessions is expected. Literature is read and actively discussed.

Assessment of the course is based on two papers:
A). A short discussion paper (max 2p A4, 1000 w.) regarding one particular aspect of the course contents, to be prepared and presented in pairs and distributed amongst fellow students. Each paper should present and defend at least one statement for discussion, to be presented in class as input for the discussion. It should contain a comparative element, for example comparing national parliaments, MEP behaviour, election turnouts or public opinion. The paper shows the students have grasped the key academic and public discussions regarding the topic at hand.
B.) An individual final essay (10-12p) on a current theme in EU politics related to one or more issues debated in the course. The choice is to be discussed with the tutor – much intellectual freedom is encouraged, provided that the paper does assess recent theoretical and analytic insights. The same requirements hold as for the short mid-term papers.

Retake paper: resubmit three weeks after the grade has been made known. In order to be eligible for the retake paper, students have to have submitted the first paper and have to have failed the course


Yes, see the site.


A reading list will be distributed before the start of the course.


Via uSis.

Contact information

Dr. M. van Keulen