Two sides of the same ocean
Last 10 years of my professional life in the European Parliament I invested my time and energy in ensuring the highest possible quality of legislative texts in internal policy fields, such as transport, agriculture and fisheries. I personally or colleagues in my unit assisted to numerous Parliamentary interlocutors during different levels of interinstitutional negotiations and increasingly encountered that the policy fields traditionally described as internal are not isolated in the framework of EU policy scheme and are significantly influenced by global context. We often hear that ‘you cannot propose such a provision to regulate novel foods because you would be infringing WTO rules’ or ‘you have to double check your drafting proposal to be sure that it doesn’t interfere with a bilateral trade agreement’ etc.
It is probably natural that a lawyer doesn’t master all details of every field of law. It is nevertheless essential that any lawyer endeavors to enhance his/her understanding of global context, in particular in institution like the European Parliament which, in the post Lisbon period showed, that it will actively exercise its powers in the fields that go beyond internal EU affairs, e.g. international agreements, such as SWIFT, PNR, fisheries agreements or TTIP. Especially TTIP contains a number of controversial subjects that are closely followed by all variety of stakeholders starting from small businesses, NGOs, trade unions, large corporations and ending with national governments and parliaments and the EU institutions. The fact that TTIP is much more than an instrument of international trade law is underlined by the fact that an unprecedented number of 14 Parliamentary committees took part in shaping the latest EP resolution on TTIP negotiations, adopted by plenary on July 8, 2015.
Rather than using its last resort ‘nuclear power’ and declining its consent to an instrument of international trade law, ambition of European Parliament in ensuring democratic legitimacy of adopted decisions, should be to exploit its options prior to the ‘final vote’ in order to get its political objectives included in the negotiated documents. In doing so, is there anything the largest parliament in the world elected directly can get inspired from other legislative bodies, such as the U.S. Congress? How would the dynamics of EU legislative process change if European Parliament had the right of legislative initiative, the ‘tool’ that belongs to essential features of traditional parliamentarism?
These questions form 1st part of my ‘mission’ at the University of Miami and are main topics of my research which I carry out in the framework of the EU Fellowship programme. I am still in the process of establishing how the research outcome will be materialised. In any case, I will use this blog platform to develop the topic and that way stay in touch with my colleagues from Parliament and with anybody who finds the above questions relevant.
I feel privileged that in carrying out my research I can regularly consult distinguished professor Joaquin Roy, Jean Monnet Chair and Director of University of Miami EU Center of Excellence. I will do my best to share my expertise relating to the EU policies, institutional architecture and the latest EU developments and be available to the students enrolled to the seminars focused on EU topics. This activity forms the 2nd essential part of my stay at the University of Miami.
When looking at the Atlantic Ocean here in Miami, I explained to my daughter that it is the same ocean as the one we saw in Portugal last year. She was very surprised and repeatedly asked the question, ‘is this really the same ocean? It seems so different, water is warmer here, and colors are different too.’ I am not trying to show surprise that some things on the two sides of the Atlantic are different. Sometimes things are different just across the river or even a street, the East and West Berliners could say stories about that. Building on diversity I will look for sources of inspiration and will focus on the relevant procedures applied on the two sides which despite all differences have a lot in common.