31 July 2012

Parliament's chambers

In the previous post, I wrote about some separate matters that refer to the legislative body of the European federation. I will now more systematically continue in matters that concern the federal parliament as the whole or are common to both chambers of it.

I wrote in the previous post, that the federal parliament should consist of two chambers (The House of the People and The House of States). But I expressed about their mutual relation in no way. This relation can in general be whatever – for example one chamber can have superiority and the other only be supplement to it (as in Germany) or either chamber can have approximately or completely equal position (as it is in Switzerland). If however two chambers of the federal parliament should counterbalance different size of the member states, wholly equal position of both chambers is desirable, neither should be superior to the other one. This equality should be expressly determined just in the paragraph determining division of the federal parliament in two chambers. Other rule also logically follows it and should be written in the next paragraph: to adopt a law or a resolution of the whole parliament requires consent of both its chambers.

A paragraph following previous two provisions should say that both chambers sit separately though it can appear unnecessary because obvious.

I reserved the next paragraph for a provision about the seat of the European federal parliament. It may (also) appear as an unnecessary provision for I wrote already in the general provisions that the capital of the federation is the Federal region of Brussels but it has its justification, even two. We all know that the parliament of the present EU (because of selfishness of France) every half a year moves hundreds kilometers so such move will be prevented by an explicit provision that the seat of the federal parliament is the Federal region of Brussels. The second justification is a provision that I attach just in the following sentence – if circumstances urgently demand it, whatever chamber of the federal parliament can meet in other place of the federation. It is a measure that allows to the parliament to meet in the case of a critical situation, if someone or something prevented the parliament from meeting in its usual seat. Besides, some constitutions know this provision too.

The following two paragraphs of my proposal deal with necessary majorities. The first of them determines a number of present deputies necessary for the respective chamber to be quorate (to be able to adopt a decision). In states' constitutions, presence of absolute majority (at least one half) of all representatives is stipulated. I personally consider it as a quite low number and though I admit that individual deputies can be charged by the parliament with a task which make their presence impossible or they can be indisposed in health but I do not understand why just one half of a respective chamber's members should “roam” elsewhere outside the seat of the legislative body. The deputies of the body were elected to do the work for the European Union and its people, not to avoid it. The constitution of Portugal even determines that members of the parliament have a duty to be present at plenary sittings and committees to which they belong. Also the deputies of the European federal parliament should have the same duty and a minimal number of present representatives necessary for a valid sitting will indirectly secure it. I therefore determine this quorum higher, at two thirds of all members of the respective chamber.

Also minimal number of votes necessary  for adopting a decision (a law) in the respective chamber is closely connected with the previous question. A condition of absolute majority of present representatives is stipulated almost always in parliaments in Europe. But I believe that absolute majority of all deputies (of the respective chamber) should be a condition in the European federal constitution which will cause pressure against low presence of deputies in sittings because the lesser number of deputies will consider a thing the greater agreement will have to be among them so that they pass a law or other decision. That is therefore a measure against absence of deputies in sittings but also a measure that ensures that every proposal obtains sufficiently great, not only close majority. I add a sentence to this provision that each chamber can adopt its own resolutions. Consent of both chambers should be necessary for passing laws and other decisions of the whole Assembly of the Union but besides, every chamber should have a possibility to adopt its own declarations and resolutions.

The following paragraph of my suggestion determines rules of sitting of both chambers of the Assembly of the Union. It has a few sentences and the first of them says that either chamber sit permanently, that is to say for the whole election term of four years. They will naturally not sit for the four years continuously, the next sentence therefore determines a maximal period for which the chamber's setting can be adjourned. Various periods are determined as to this in constitutions, if they are determined at all. I believe (which I have already written) that representatives was elected firstly to work for those who elected them, therefore I determined 150 days in the year as a maximal period for which the sitting of one chamber can be adjourned – it is a sufficiently long period for me.

The next paragraph of my proposal is brief, it says that the Assembly of the Union cannot be dissolved. For I consider permanence of sitting of the federal parliament as a significant component of stability of whole democratic political system. Various people will certainly be surprised that I refuse present practice common in whole Europe and they will want to know how I would like to resolve usual governmental crises. But I see the relation between the legislative and the executive power differently from the view common in Europe and I do not believe that a crisis of the executive power's institutions should be resolved by intervention in the legislative power (why to dissolve the parliament when a problem is in the government? - it is silly).

The ninth paragraph determines the time when both chambers should meet for the first time and a manner of it. It is possible that either the parliament meets on a given day after elections on its own accord or somebody convokes it in a given term. Both possibilities come into consideration, I prefer the second one because it is a bit more formal. According to my suggestion, the Council of Chancellors of the Union convokes the first sitting of either chamber of the parliament in the 30th day after the respective election at the latest. Whom I call “Council of Chancellors of the Union” I will explain later discussing the executive power of the federation. It has to be also determined what should occur if a representative of the executive power (that Council of Chancellors) convokes not the first session of the respective chamber within thirty days – then my suggestion says that the chamber meet on its own the 31st day. And I add also that in the chair of the first session is the oldest member of the respective chamber.

The following paragraph ensures that sitting of the chambers will be open to public and that public can be expelled only in weighty cases determined by the law. It is a common provision of constitutions and its purpose is obvious.

Also following two paragraphs of my proposal correspond with common constitutional provisions. The first of them says that every chamber elects a president and two vice-presidents, the second one then that each chamber establishes committees and decide on distributing deputies in them.

All rules about the parliament's and its chambers' working cannot be present directly in the text of the constitution, therefore I refer to a special law about rules of procedure of the respective chamber in the next paragraph.

The next provision of this article gives to each chamber of the European federal parliament the right to conduct an investigation in the public interest and to summon persons discharging public functions.

In the next post, I will write about rights and duties of the European federal parliament's members.