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Home / Mercosur Parliament

Mercosur Parliament

History

The democracy Observatory

Appraising the role of the Parliament in the Mercosur life

 

History

The Mercosur Parliament is a representative body of the citizens of the State Parties of Mercosur. It aims to contribute to reinforce the institutional and popular dimensions of the integration process and to facilitate the process of incorporation of Mercosur´s law by the State Parties.
Its direct antecedent,the Joint Parliamentary Commission, was made up by 16 representatives of each Member State’s Parliament, and its main aims were to speed up the implementation of Mercosur’s legislation in each Member State, and to foster co-operation in the legislative framework, as well as evaluating the relationship with third countries, and transmitting advice to the Executive Committee. However, none of these functions was fully accomplished; on top of that, it only had an advisory role (that is, it did not had the power to make laws), it had to overcome tensions against other Mercosur organisms, and it was criticized for not representing citizens.
On the other hand, the Joint Parliamentary Commission did carry out its mission of promoting the founding of the Mercosur Parliament. According to this, through the first half of the 2000s, a High Level Technical Group was constituted, with the aim of writing a draft of the Protocol for the Parliament’s establishment.
Finally, the Protocol was signed in December 2005, and it established December 31th 2006 as a deadline for the effective installation of the Parliament. Among the aims of the organism, the Protocol refers to “representing the peoples of Mercosur” (Art. 1), as well as to “the promotion and permanent defense of democracy” (Art. 2).

 

Composition, powers and decision-making

As regards the decision-making power of the Parliament, the Protocol establishes that this organism will issue a ruling about every legislative draft that may need to be passed by one o more national Congresses (Art. 12). This means, in first place, that the Parliament’s decisions only have advisory character; in second place, considering that the projects assessed by the Parliament are developed by other decision-making organisms, it is possible to conclude that the Parliament does not have any power for making laws in representation of the citizens.
Even if it did have that power, the process that leads to the direct election of representatives by the citizens is only in its first stage. The Protocol considers two stages of transition from the current system for the election of representatives, to the ultimate method, which should be applied as of January 1st 2015.
In the first stage of transition, from December 31th 2006 until December 31th 2010, the Parliament is made up by eighteen members of each country’s Congress, and each Member State decides its own method for electing them.
In the second stage, from January 1st 2011 to December 31th 2014, each country shall celebrate direct elections, whose shall be organized according to the electoral system of each country, in order to assure an adequate ethnic, gender and geographical representation (Art. 6).
After these transitional stages, the definitive electoral system for Parliament representatives plans to incorporate simultaneous elections in all the Member States.
A report by the Institute of International Strategy (2006) of the Exporter´s Chamera of Argentina  reckons a number of limitations that might hamper the democratizing goal of the Parliament. In first place, this institution would not issue mandatory norms, but it would only provide other organisms with information and advice. In second place, the establishment of the Parliament took place without the necessary previous adjustments in the legislative systems of the Member States; that is, the constitutional changes that would enable each country to pass the supranational norms issued by the Mercosur Parliament. In third place, to date, the criteria used to establish the composition of the Parliament are still to be set, although this institution is already running. In fourth place, there is a serious risk of creating, along with the Parliament, a beaurocratic hypertrophy. Finally, the need to take into account factors like the NDP, the population, and the participation ratio of each Member State, might lead to a representative system that erodes the legitimacy of each State before their citizens. 

 

The democracy Observatory

Although through the last years the democratic deficits of Mercosur have become a matter of concern for scholars and for the bloc’s authorities themselves, the Democracy Observatory, created in 2007 by Decision 05/07 of the Common Market Council , does not aim to defend and deepen democracy within the Mercosur’s institutions, but to function as a guardian of domestic democracy in the Member States, supporting the concepts of the Ushuaia Protocol.
Thus, its founding Decision establishes that the Observatory will have the following objectives: strengthening the Democratic Commitment of Mercosur, monitoring electoral processes held in the Member States, and carrying out activities related to the consolidation of democracy in the region.
As for its constitution, it was created within the Mercosur Parliament, and its Direction Committee is made up by one representative of each Member State, and it is coordinated by the representative of the Member State in charge of the pro tempore Presidency of the bloc.
Since the search for regional democratization is not among the goals of this organism, it only seems possible to analyze the extent to which it succeeded in fostering Mercosur’s democratization by considering, as said above, that the improving of each country’s democratic quality indirectly deepens the bloc’s democracy.
Anyway, it is interesting to mention that by July 2009, the only advance achieved by this body, after eight meetings of its Direction Committee, has been the approval of its Rules of Procedure  by the Mercosur Parliament. However, the fact that, to date, the development of this organism seems to be rather sluggish, does not mean that, once provided with Rules of Procedure, it will not be effective. In any case, it seems necessary to wait until it is possible to make a proper assessment of this body.

 

Appraising the role of the Parliament in the Mercosur life

The Parliament's legislation features an essential contradiction: it is meant to be the main body in charge of representing citizens’ interests and achieving democratization, and the changes planned with regards to its composition (the direct election of the representatives by 2011) seem to promote the fulfillment of those objectives. Nevertheless, the non-mandatory character of the laws issued by this organism seriously diminishes its capacity to convert citizens’ needs and demands into real, material legislation. Therefore, before testing the capacity of the Parliament for a smooth running (that is, to avoid crippling deadlocks and to create consensus even when it comes to discussing controversial issues), it is necessary to assure that its decisions will not be ignored by any other decision-making body, but will have full legislative value by themselves.
Once this central weak spot is solved, there will still be a few challenges for this organism: in first place, the selection of an adequate method for calculating the number of seats each country will get. As shown above, the gap between the populations of the Member States is enormous, and a proportional distribution of seats may deepen those differences, whereas a weighted proportionality may reduce them. Even if we take as given that an adjusted calculus will be used, the political will of the big States (Argentina and Brazil) will be decisive, for their support of a balanced formula is fundamental for achieving a powerful Parliament, even though it might mean a decrease of their own relative power within Mercosur.
In second place, in view of the direct election of representatives by 2011, the Member States ought to commit themselves to organizing free and fair elections, and to observe the dates and procedures stipulated by Mercosur authorities.
In third place, the Member States should as well commit themselves to apply the laws issued by the Mercosur Parliament. Actually, this recommendation should be incorporated not only regarding Parliament’s decisions, but regarding every decision-making organism. It is necessary therefore that every country, even the bigger ones, respect the sanctions imposed through the bloc’s law – it seems to be the only way for those laws to grow into the mandatory nature they are meant to have.

 
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