Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Modernization without Change: Decision-Making Process in the Mercosur Parliament *

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Modernization without Change: Decision-Making Process in the Mercosur Parliament *

Article excerpt

Mercosur has, in the ten years since its creation, been progressively diagnosed as stagnant and in the middle of an institution crisis (e.g., ALMEIDA, 20131; MALAMUD, 2005, 2013). Issues have recently gained momentum with the declaration of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff that she intends to reopen negotiations for a free trade treaty between Mercosur and the European Union, regardless of Venezuela and Argentina2. Following an initial moment of optimism, supported mainly by the increase in the interdependence among member countries, the Brazilian crisis of 1999 and Argentinean crisis of 2001 awoke suspicion and anxiety for protecting domestic interests. The commercial and political conflicts that followed brought discussions to the surface regarding the institutional structure of the bloc (VIGEVANI et al., 2002).

In the context of studies that have tried to offer regional, institutional explanations for the advances and setbacks of Mercosur, the present article analyzes its Parliament, Parlasul, associating institutional arrangements to possible consequences of representativeness and, in a broader way, to coordination trends and to solutions for political conflicts of the organization. The Parliament is a recent organ within the institutional frame of Mercosur, which can claim that is still in the process of consolidation, during which it faces some pitfalls. Created in 2006, its function is primarily consultive and intermediary, not having decision-making power in an organization that is particularly centered on organs formed by members of the Executive branches of the party-States3. Nevertheless, it is more broadly concerned with the assimilation of democratic practices into the institutional design.

In fact, the issue of democracy is a complex challenge for the regional organizations. They are marked by the sharp relevance of the size of technical efficiency; by intricate mechanisms of internal legitimation of the executive bodies; and, by the difficulty of identifying those actors responsible for a decision in a system of multi-level governance. Such organizations bring about a reallocation of political competencies, largely unclear to the general population, thus fostering questions linked to democracy, representation and legitimacy (MEDEIROS et al., 2010).

In order to face these problems, several blocs are developing institutional arrangements that include regional parliaments at their core. In fact, since the creation of the Legislative Assembly in 1952, whose evolution resulted in the European Parliament, integration initiatives like the System for the Integration of Central America (SICA), the Andean Community (CAN) and Common Market of the South (Mercosur), among others, have inserted parliaments into their frameworks (respectively, Parlacen, Parlandino and Parlasul). This institutional option initially follows the same justifying principal of its corresponding nations: it is composed of representatives of the peoples of the member states in such a way as to confer procedural democratic legitimacy (input) on the supra-national or intergovernmental process.

Of the functions traditionally attributed to the national parliaments (representative, legislative, legitimizing and controlling the Executive branch and its bureaucratic body - BOBBIO, 1998; DRI, 2006; QUERMONNE, 2001), the regionals are, frequently, nominally invested with everything. However, it is observed that the legislative function at the core of national parliaments, from modernity, is significantly mitigated in the regional counterparts. Among the latter, the European Parliament is the only one that gives its members the power to vote on legislative acts in decision-making manner, albeit in the process performed in conjunction with the council and restricted to certain materials. On the other hand, Parlasul, Parlatino and Parlacen are restricted to the proposal standards and efforts to align the laws of the State parties.

In the same way, it is found that the division of functions at the regional level creates distance from the modern scheme of tripartite clarity. …

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