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Parliaments in the European Union


Admission requirements

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


The course Parliaments in the European Union is all about European democracy. 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, radical solutions are necessary for the democratisation of the EU, including citizen initiatives and referenda. This course focuses on the workings of parliamentary democracy. The competences of the European Parliament have been gradually extended through subsequent revisions of the treaty. 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, the next of which will be held in 2019. For some, therefore, democratic legitimation of European decisions should primarily reside at the national level. There are 41 Chambers of 28 national governments. Each of these Chambers control the actions of their governments in the Council (indirect scrutiny) in different ways, according to formal powers, capacity and role conceptions. They all have been empowevered with direct scrutiny instruments, including an ‘ early warning mechanism’ in the form of a yellow and orange card procedure. How do parliaments use these new competences; which are best practices, and what is necessary for both the EP and national parliaments to perform their tasks?

This interactive course sheds light on the formal competences and 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. 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, a working visit to parliament, 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.

The tutor is Mendeltje van Keulen, professor and head of the research group Changing Role of Europe, The Hague University of Applied Sciences. She studied European Public Administration in Enschede and at the College of Europe in Bruges 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 worked for various think tanks, including the European University Institute Florence, the Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael and the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy WRR. From 2011-2017, she was the clerk of the European Affairs Committee in the Dutch House of Representatives and head of the parliamentary EU staff. Until 2013, Mendeltje van Keulen was vice-president of the European Movement in the Netherlands. She regularly lectures and publishes on EU parliamentary affairs, integration and policy making for students and professionals.

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.


The timetable is available on the website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures (guest Lectures)

  • working visits

  • presentations

Course Load

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

  • Hours spent on attending seminars (attendance is compulsory): 4 hours per week x 6 weeks = 24 hours

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

  • Preparation for the final paper: 80 hours

Assessment method

  • Papers,

  • presentation (see below)

  • participation

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


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average..

Assessment of the course is based on two papers:

  • A weekly essay (max 500 w.) regarding one particular aspect of the course contents, to be prepared and presented to 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.

  • 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.


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 failed the course.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • distributing announcements, literature and materials


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


Via uSis.

Contact information

Dr. M. van Keulen