The Impact of European Integration: Political, Sociological, and Economic Changes

By George A. Kourvetaris; Andreas Moschonas | Go to book overview

10

The European Parliament

Juliet Lodge

The European Parliament is arguably one of the most vital EU institutions. It is one that assumes a system-transformative role in the EU; one that sets the political agenda and tries to define the emergent European Union's raison d'être; yet is one that, until relatively recently, had few entrenched powers. The absence of legislative authority meant that for much of its history, it was derided as impotent and unfavorably compared to national parliaments. Its mere existence, however, aroused acute anxiety among national parliamentarians and governments who feared that it would snatch away their sovereignty. The degree of fear and presentiments of rivalry require explanation, for though powerless, the European Parliament was never irrelevant to the development of European integration and the realization of European Union.


ORIGINS

The European Parliament originated as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community, set up in 1950. By the 1960s, it served the merged communities. Its members were initially appointed from among the ranks of national parliamentarians. While mainly elected MPs, their number included appointments from second, sometimes nonelected, chambers such as the House of Lords (following Britain's accession in 1973). The national nominees were said to hold a "dual mandate" and this dual mandate was often seen as the chief obstacle to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) acquiring real power.

The Common Assembly referred to itself as the European Parliament but this name was not adopted officially until the reforms introduced through the Single European Act made even the most reluctant government (in this case, the British under Mrs. Thatcher) use this nomenclature. The name was not just symbolically and psychologically important. Nor was it mere rhetoric. It was part of the EP's gambit to inject vision into the emergent EU polity and to

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