Member States and EU agreements: Is it really national parliaments that are standing in the way of EU strategic autonomy?

April 2021


In voicing their ambition for a ‘stronger Europe in the world’ the European Commission has indicated to strive for ‘Open Strategic Autonomy’. One of the obstacles in trying to achieve this capability to assert itself as a global actor, is that individual Member States can often block EU actions. This undermines the EU’s ability to act as one, hindering the realisation of strategic autonomy.

This paper focuses on one specific illustration of this, namely the fact that EU action may be blocked by any single of the 36 legislatures in the EU Member States through their de facto veto right on ‘mixed’ agreements. These are international agreements that covering areas of EU competence as well as of the competence of Member States.

The concept of mixity is addressed in this paper by discussing how this has come about and how it is decided that agreements cannot be EU-only. It will also highlight the political and legal motivations that prompt Member States to insist on mixity in international agreements. Additionally, this paper presents cases where comprehensive agreements were not subject to ratification by each Member State for pragmatic reasons.

Lastly, this paper offers some thoughts on to how to address the dilemma of wanting to enable the EU to act strategically while, at the same time, duly involve national parliaments as representatives of stakeholders and citizens.

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