Shaping and Controlling Foreign Policy - Parliamentary Diplomacy and Oversight, and the Role of the European Parliament

04-06-2015

In the post-Cold War international system, new actors, including parliaments, emerge and they challenge the traditional dominance by governments of international relations and foreign policy. In democratic societies it is increasingly difficult to sustain the traditional notion that foreign policy is incompatible with democratic decision-making and scrutiny and that state sovereignty in this domain is the exclusive, unquestionable competence of governments, as the perceived sole representative of the state. As the core institution of democracy and elected representatives, parliaments are increasingly expected to contribute to resolving complex foreign policy and international issues which are impacting more and more directly on citizens’ lives by discussing diverse views on strategic direction and policy priorities, by legitimising complex policies and initiatives and by building up public trust (and support) on complex issues in a way that is comprehensible to citizens. The paper examines the role and functions of parliaments in shaping and controlling foreign policy, also by discussing some case studies (US, German, British and French). It reflects particularly on the gradual parliamentarisation of Member State-dominated EU foreign policy. It analyses the nature of the European Parliament’s actorhood in international relations, the EP’s emerging role in EU foreign policy as well as the tools and powers available to exert influence on the Union’s decisions and relations. It finally concludes that EU foreign policy can become efficient and democratic at the same time in the process of building an EU 'representative democracy'.

In the post-Cold War international system, new actors, including parliaments, emerge and they challenge the traditional dominance by governments of international relations and foreign policy. In democratic societies it is increasingly difficult to sustain the traditional notion that foreign policy is incompatible with democratic decision-making and scrutiny and that state sovereignty in this domain is the exclusive, unquestionable competence of governments, as the perceived sole representative of the state. As the core institution of democracy and elected representatives, parliaments are increasingly expected to contribute to resolving complex foreign policy and international issues which are impacting more and more directly on citizens’ lives by discussing diverse views on strategic direction and policy priorities, by legitimising complex policies and initiatives and by building up public trust (and support) on complex issues in a way that is comprehensible to citizens. The paper examines the role and functions of parliaments in shaping and controlling foreign policy, also by discussing some case studies (US, German, British and French). It reflects particularly on the gradual parliamentarisation of Member State-dominated EU foreign policy. It analyses the nature of the European Parliament’s actorhood in international relations, the EP’s emerging role in EU foreign policy as well as the tools and powers available to exert influence on the Union’s decisions and relations. It finally concludes that EU foreign policy can become efficient and democratic at the same time in the process of building an EU 'representative democracy'.