European focus at Holyrood


The Scottish Parliament’s new system of scrutinising the European Parliament will be highlighted to UK representatives of the Committee of the Regions on Monday 10 January.

Members of the European and External Relations Committee will present the new strategy - adopted by the Scottish Parliament on 9 December 2010 - to 60 delegates in the Parliament’s Chamber. The Committee of the Region delegates are drawn from local and regional authorities across the UK to provide them with a direct voice within the European Union.

The Scottish Parliament is the first devolved body in the UK to adopt a formal Parliamentary system following the Lisbon Treaty. The system includes the following three strands:

  1. Formalising the role of the European and External Relations Committee in horizon-gazing and co-ordinating, with relevant Parliamentary Committees appointing European Reporters.
  2. Agreeing as a Parliament the priority issues to watch from within the longer term European Commission work programmes.
  3. Working with the Scottish Government on improving mechanisms for representation of any policy area that might be of importance to the people of Scotland, known as the subsidiarity protocol – or early warning system.

Speaking ahead of the event, committee convener Irene Oldfather MSP said:

“In agreeing to this strategy, the Scottish Parliament has taken a practical step forward to improving how we engage with the European Community and ensuring our voice is heard. The Treaty of Lisbon gives the opportunity to influence European Union legislation, albeit later in the process, and we intend to take it. We are pleased to be able to share our strategy with colleagues from across the UK with a view to improving how we all interact with European legislatures.”

Ms Oldfather will speak at the Monday afternoon meeting of the UK representatives of the Committee of the Regions. The last time the body met at Holyrood was December 2005. The meeting will be followed on Tuesday, by a meeting of the UK representatives of the Congress of the Council of Europe.


Committee of the Regions

The Committee is a political assembly of representatives from local and regional authorities (such as Councils and / or Assemblies / Parliaments). It provides these local and regional authorities with a voice at the heart of the European Union. This is important as many of these bodies are responsible for implementation of EU laws and it also helps the European Union hear the voice of elected representatives at the level closest to the citizen.

The Treaty of the European Union and the Amsterdam Treaty oblige the European Commission and Council to consult the Committee of the Regions whenever new proposals are made in areas that have repercussions at regional or local level, specifically: economic and social cohesion, trans-European infrastructure networks, health, education and culture, employment policy, social policy, the environment, vocational training and transport.

Outside these areas, the Commission, Council and European Parliament have the option to consult the CoR on issues if they see important regional or local implications to a proposal. The CoR can also draw up an opinion on its own initiative, which enables it to put issues on the EU agenda.

Congress of the Council of Europe
The Congress of the Council of Europe (in full, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe) is an institution representing local and regional authorities from the forty-seven member states of the Council of Europe.

The Congress is the voice of Europe’s 200,000 regions and municipalities, providing a forum for their elected officials to discuss common concerns, share experiences and develop policies. The Congress is dealing with such specific issues as citizens’ participation, urban security, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, migrants, sustainable development of territorial communities, culture and education, history and modernity, the fight against human trafficking, and many others.

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