Comparative European Politics

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 919–939 | Cite as

National parliaments in the democratic politics of the EU: the subsidiarity early warning mechanism, 2009–2017

  • Ian CooperEmail author
Original Article


With the Early Warning Mechanism (EWM), the Treaty of Lisbon empowered national parliaments to collectively intervene in the EU’s legislative process. Yet at first glance their impact seems to have been minimal. Between 2009 and 2017, national parliaments only formally triggered the EWM on three occasions (with a ‘yellow card’), and in two of those cases they were overruled. However, if we broaden the analysis to include many other cases where national parliaments came close to triggering the EWM (but fell short), and expand the timeline to look at their long-term influence on the legislative process, a more nuanced picture emerges. National parliaments have not had much success in using the EWM to block unwanted legislation—i.e. causing it to be rejected, withdrawn, or permanently deferred. However, they have had some success in using the EWM to engage in policy dialogue with EU institutions. In a few cases, national parliaments’ interventions had a discernable, yet unheralded, impact on the final legislative outcome—in part by influencing their respective governments’ negotiating positions. More generally, the EWM has legitimized the role of national parliaments, individually and collectively, as EU-level actors, and in so doing has enhanced the democratic legitimacy of the EU.


Democracy European Union National parliaments Subsidiarity Treaty of Lisbon 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brexit Institute, Dublin City UniversityDublin 9Ireland

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