One of the key principles of the European Union is "subsidiarity", which means decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizens. In other words, the EU can only act in cases where EU action is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. When examining legislative proposals, the European Parliament must pay particular attention to the principle of subsidiarity. 

The Lisbon Treaty confers onto national Parliaments the power to review proposed legislation and issue a "reasoned opinion" if they consider that a draft EU legislative act does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity.

In such a case, a national Parliament should present its views in writing to the President of the Parliament, Council and Commission within eight weeks from transmission of the last linguistic version of the draft legislative act in question. 

If enough national Parliaments do so, they will trigger the so-called "yellow card" or "orange card" procedures whereby the draft law must be reviewed.

This mechanism is formally limited to questions on subsidiarity. Nevertheless, national Parliaments have used this opportunity to routinely transmit to the EU institutions their views on a much broader range of issues beyond subsidiarity. For instance, they may comment on policy choices of a given proposal. The European Parliament refers to these documents as "contributions", as opposed to the "reasoned opinions", which allege a breach of the subsidiarity principle.

The European Parliament receives several hundred documents from national Parliaments every year, of which about one sixth are reasoned opinions, while the remaining cases are contributions. The EP is the only EU institution which translates all reasoned opinions from national Parliaments into other EU languages.

The EP Directorate for Relations with National Parliaments ensures that all documents sent by national Parliaments are made available to Members, political groups and committee secretariats of the European Parliament. It also provides "facts & figures" on the number and nature of these documents.

"State of Play" notes 2021

Monthly State of Play notes drafted by the Directorate for Relations with national Parliaments before an EP plenary session.

"State of Play" notes 2020

"State of Play" notes 2019

"State of Play" notes 2018

"State of Play" notes 2017

"State of play" notes 2016

"State of play" notes 2015

"State of play" notes 2014