News from Parliaments

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Portuguese Parliament approves the Fiscal Compact

The Portuguese Assembleia da República approved the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (“Fiscal Compact”) and the Treaty on the European Stability Mechanism (“ESM Treaty”).

The Portuguese Parliament has approved for ratification, at today's plenary session (13th April 2012), the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (“Fiscal Compact”) and the Treaty on the European Stability Mechanism (“ESM Treaty”). The treaties were approved with a large majority (more than 80% of the Parliament Members voted in favour).

Following the procedure for ratify international agreements as established in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, after the approval of the Parliament, the two treaties will be sent to be ratified by the President of the Portuguese Republic.

The German Bundestag approves financial assistance programme for Greece

On Monday, 27 February 2012, the German Bundestag gave its consent to a motion, tabled by the German Ministry of Finance, for an agreement to be concluded on the “granting of an emergency measure”, in the form of loans, by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) for the benefit of Greece. The legal basis is Section 3 of Germany´s Stabilisation Mechanism Act (see link below). 

Greece will receive up to 130 billion euros in loans. In addition, the remaining 24.4 billion euros from the first programme for Greece will also be disbursed by the EFSF in future, according to the motion. Germany’s share of the coordinated bilateral loans which made up the first programme was channelled via the KfW-Bankengruppe. Accordingly, a portion of the guarantees assumed by the German state for these loans under the Act on Financial Stability within the Monetary Union remains unused.

The Ministry’s explanatory memorandum states that on 8 February Greece requested emergency loans from the EFSF in a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg), the President of the Eurogroup (composed of the finance ministers of the eurozone states). On 21 February, the Eurogroup stated that, in its view, the necessary elements were now in place for the Member States to carry out the relevant national procedures to allow funds to be provided to Greece for a second programme.

The basis for the programme was established by the eurozone heads of state and government on 26 October 2011, when they agreed to make up to 30 billion euros available to facilitate the success of the voluntary bond exchange.

The loans are intended to enable Greece to arrange a voluntary restructuring of debt held by private sector bondholders and thus to pave the way for a sustainable debt path. Up to 35.5 billion euros is earmarked for this purpose.
Up to 94.5 billion euros is earmarked for a multi-year assistance programme to ensure Greece’s long-term solvency. And finally, the remaining 24.4 billion euros from the first programme for Greece is to be transferred to the EFSF and lent to Athens as part of the second programme.

The Ministry states in its explanatory memorandum that these “emergency measures” are intended to safeguard stability in the eurozone, and that the conditions for the assumption of guarantees set out in the Stabilisation Mechanism Act have been met. Once the amount to be contributed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been decided, the current figure of 94.5 billion euros to be provided by the eurozone will decrease accordingly.

On Friday, 24 February, a majority of the members of the Bundestag’s Budget Committee had endorsed the outcome of the Eurogroup’s negotiations, welcoming the fact that it would result in a reduction of Greek debt to 120 per cent of GDP. The committee also welcomed the higher level of private sector involvement, now due to be 53.5 billion euros, and the fact that the ceiling of 130 billion euros for the second package had been maintained.

Germany´s Stabilisation Mechanism Act

Slovenian National Assembly debate on ACTA

Committee on EU Affairs organized a public presentation of opinions about ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) on Friday 17 February 2012.

The Committee on EU Affairs adopted the position on the signing Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement at its 39th meeting of 28 September 2011. However, after critical voices had been raised against this signing, the Committee in EU Affairs adopted the conclusion to organize public presentation of opinions on this issue at its 4th meeting of 3 February 2012.

The public debate on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) held in parliament on Friday 17 February 2012 heard opinions by several public office holders as well as by representatives of the civil society and experts, who mostly criticised the agreement.

Virtually all participants shared the view that regulating this field was necessary but required a broad public discussion which must address all open issues, examine the consequences of any agreement reached, and make sure that there is a balance among different rights.

Parliamentary EU Affairs Committee chair Roman Jakič, who hosted the public presentation as an attempt to clarify a number of issues regarding ACTA, said that the citizens deserved a better agreement. He believes Slovenia should not only freeze ratification but also withdraw from the agreement altogether.

Anders Jessen, the head of the Unit for Public Procurement and Intellectual Property at Directorate-General of the European Commission, was the only one who presented a pro-ACTA position. He underlined the significance of ACTA for the EU's economy in the field of intellectual property.

Economic Development and Technology Minister Radovan Žerjav reiterated that the government would freeze ACTA ratification, as the agreement did not strike the right balance between the economy and human rights. The government will not change its mind about the agreement until this balance is reached, he said.

The agreement was signed on 26 January in Tokyo by representatives of the European Commission and 22 of the 27 EU member states, including Slovenia.

The French Senate in favour of the enhancement of the parliamentary control over the EU economic governance

The French Senate is about to adopt a draft resolution of its Europan Affairs Committee on the enhancement of the democratic control over the EU economic and budgetary governance. This document advocates that the interparliamentary Conference foreseen notably by the new Treaty should meet before every European Council Spring meeting, in order to allow a political dialogue between national parliaments and the EU institutions. This Conference could also meet, if necessary, according to a "Eurozone" format. It should be able to adopt resolutions. In addition, the draft resolution of the Senate states that the EU budgetary discipline should go together with an EU support to growth.

The draft resolution (in French) is available on:

25/01/12 Italian Senate debate on European Policy

European policy: Declarations of the President of the Council of Ministers and approval of motions and resolutions

The Italian Senate debated recommendations on European policy ahead of the European Council meeting at the end of the month. After the presentation and discussion of motions, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Mario Monti, made a statement regarding recent developments in the crisis in the Euro zone and the ongoing negotiations for fiscal union.

The Prime Minister expressed his confidence in the current talks on fiscal union and said a solution was now in sight. He called for a joint effort to support the Italian approach of enforcing rigour on the public accounts, designing mechanisms for financial stability and framing development policies. With respect to the discussions on the fiscal compact, Italy, he said, was acting to promote the integrity of the EU, strengthen the community budget and enhance the tools for financial stabilisation.

Following a debate on the declarations made by the Prime Minister, the Senate approved a joint motion on European policy, presented by Senators from several political groups of the majority. The Senate then approved a proposal for a resolution presented by Senators from the Italia dei Valori (IdV) party, and three motions by Senator Bonino, the Coesione Nazionale group and the IdV group, respectively. Furthermore, the Senate approved parts of a motion by the Lega Nord.

The approved joint act includes among its objectives: a revitalisation of the “community method” and of Italy’s role in the process of political integration; the taking into account of the economic cycle, the pension system and private savings in the reduction of the public debt; a more active role for the European Central Bank; the issuance of Eurobonds; the joint management of sovereign debts; and the creation of a European rating agency. The Senate also adopted Resolutions nos. 2 and 23 approving the Prime Minister’s declarations.
The Chamber of Deputies also discussed and approved motions on Italy's European policy.

The motions (Italian text) are available on

The English version of the operative sections of approved motions is available on the attached pdf document.

Belgian Federal Parliament IPEX information session

On Friday, 16th of December 2011, the Belgian Senate organised an IPEX information session.

The European Affairs Department invited Mr. Calin Racoti, IPEX Information Officer, to introduce the new website to the civil servants of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives, as well as to the members of the political staff.

01/12/2011 German Bundestag on negotiations with Republic of Montenegro

The German Bundestag has agreed that the Federal Government should give its consent to a decision of the Council to open negotiations on the accession of the Republic of Montenegro to the European Union. The Bundestag did, however, attach certain conditions to this agreement.

The translation into English of the decision of the German Bundestag will be published soon.

Read more in IPEX under:

26/10/11 The German Bundestag agreed by a huge majority about the further design of the EFSF


Dutch Senate replaces printed parliamentary documents with iPad

Starting on 13 September 2011, the Senate of the Dutch Parliament will distribute its meeting documents to its 75 Senators by tablet computer. At the start of the first session after the summer recess, the Senators each received an iPad with an application (App) designed especially for the Senate. The Members of the Senate can use this modern communication tool to consult and manage the complete information flow of calendars, legislative bills, parliamentary correspondence and other meeting documents.

With that, the Senate of the States General is the first house of parliament in Europe to switch completely to the digital provision of information. Although several parliaments throughout Europe are considering the further digitisation of their documents, the Dutch Senate is the first to switch to digital meetings with the support of a tablet computer.

In doing so, the Senate is breaking with an almost 200-year history of distributing bills, letters from the government, reports and other meeting documents in printed form. All of this post generates thousands of pages of printed matter per Senator per week, which had to be delivered to the homes of the Senators by courier until now. And since national parliaments have been allowed to state their opinions on policy proposals of the European Union, the amount of parliamentary post has grown even further. From now on, the 75 Senators will be able to view all documents directly on their iPads and add notes to meeting documents. The calendar ‘links’ directly to the national and European files. It is expected that the vast majority of Senators will use the iPad exclusively once accustomed to using the tablet computer.

Senate continues to takes the lead in digital innovation
The Senators received the iPads, which will remain the property of the Senate, prior to the first plenary meeting following the summer recess. In a brief speech, the Secretary General G.J.A. (Geert Jan) Hamilton referred to the introduction of the tablet computer as a defining moment in the history of the Senate. “The Senate is sometimes burdened with a ‘dull’ image, but besides quality and meticulousness, transparency and working efficiently are also held in high regard. This is why the Senate has continued to take the lead when it comes to digital information provision and rapid communication.” The Secretary General pointed out that the Senate was also quick to introduce new communication tools in previous decades, such as making parliamentary papers available via the Internet in 1994, and launching a user-friendly website in 1997. The websites of the Senate have won awards on several occasions for their excellent accessibility.

The President of the Senate G.J. (Fred) de Graaf launched the new working procedure with two official acts. First, he unveiled a work of art by artist Jos van den Berg and graphic designer Cees van Rutten. It concerns a relief, cut from pieces of glued parliamentary papers. The creation is called Pre-iPad Parliament, and marks the transition from the printed order of the meeting to the digital form. He then officially launched the new Senate App.

Reliable and sustainable
The introduction of the iPad was preceded by careful preparations, which included the development of software for the efficient management of calendars and complete bill dossiers. The decision was based partly on considerations concerning sustainability and cost efficiency. Practical advantages, such as efficient recordkeeping and continuous updating of calendars and files also played an important role.

The Senate developed the system in cooperation with the ‘Knowledge and Operations Centre for Official Government Publications’ (Kennis- en Exploitatiecentrum Officiële Overheidspublicaties) (a division of ICTU) and PDC Information Architecture. The application itself was designed and delivered by ICT service provider Sogeti. The App was tested thoroughly during the summer recess. This showed that the electronic publication of parliamentary papers is efficient, dependable and reliable. Wireless communication is supported by the 21 Wi-Fi transmitters located in the historic Senate building as of early September.

With the system, which is now operational, the Senate has taken the lead in the application of technology in the context of the paperless government. The introduction of the tablet computers and the development of the App are associated with an investment of €148,000. Much of this amount will be recouped in the first year through a fundamental reduction in the costs of printing and courier services for the Senate. These amount to €142,686 (price level 2010). In time, the savings on the Senate’s overheads can increase even further, as stated by Secretary General Hamilton in his explanation of the project.
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