Subsidiarity watchdogs and the kennel of trilogues: when do they bark? The role of National Parliaments in trilogue negotiations

Rik de Ruiter*, Christine Neuhold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Since the Lisbon Treaty National Parliaments (NPs) can play a formal role in the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (OLP). One of the complexities of this legislative process is that the formal decisions are pre-negotiated in informal trilogues between the Council, the European Parliament (EP) and the European Commission. NPs have no role to play in trilogues, and have difficulties accessing information discussed in trilogue meetings, hindering MPs to hold their national government to account for decisions made in the Council. This article explores whether NPs monitor trilogue negotiations, and, if so, how and why do they do this. The empirical material is collected through semi-structured interviews with actors from several NPs and a content analysis of debates in two Member States. The results show that NPs operate in a formal and informal institutional context, both at the EU and national level. These institutional arrangements are used by MPs to lower costs of collecting information on trilogue negotiations in order to be able to hold the government to account and to steer the negotiation position of the government in the direction of their own policy positions. However, the increased attention for trilogue negotiations by NPs cannot alleviate the phenomenon of domestic de-parliamentarization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-111
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number1
Early online dateDec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021


  • European Union
  • National Parliaments
  • trilogues
  • decision-making
  • Austria
  • the Netherlands

Cite this