THE ROLE OF UPPER CHAMBERS OF NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS IN THE EUROPEAN INTEGRATION PROCESSES AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
(Answers to the questions)
1. With Slovenia's accession to the European Union (hereinafter referred to as ''the EU'') some of its sovereign rights were transferred to the EU institutions. For this reason Slovenia adopted appropriate constitutional amendments in 2003 to facilitate the transfer of part of Slovenia's sovereign rights to international institutions that are founded on the principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. Article 3a of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia (hereinafter referred to as ''the Constitution'') governing these issues provides for the need to finalise an appropriate form of cooperation between the Government and the National Assembly in the area of European affairs. This constitutional requirement was met by the adoption of the Law on Cooperation between the National Assembly and the Government in the European Affairs. However, the law only sets out the roles of the Government and the National Assembly and does not set out the role of the National Council. The Constitution provides for the National Council to convey its opinion on all matters within the competence of the National Assembly. Consequently their relationship is defined by the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly. A representative of the National Council shall be invited to sessions of both working bodies of the National Assembly competent for European affairs and can present an opinion of the National Council. When the opinion is not submitted on time it shall be considered that the Council agrees with the position proposed by the Government.
The work of the National Council is set out in the Law on the National Council and its Rules of Procedure. For the time being, amendments related to the work of the National Council in the area of European affairs have not been foreseen. The EU affairs shall be dealt with, primarily, by the International Relations and European Affairs Commission and in cooperation with the commission competent for the relevant area. The position of a National Councillor is a non-professional one that is why it is also unrealistic to expect the National Council to cover all matters on which it could convey its opinion.
2. Powers of the National Council are set out in the Constitution which states that the National Council conveys to the National Assembly its opinion on all matters within the competence of the National Assembly. Cooperation between the National Assembly and the National Council after Slovenia's accession to the EU is more specifically defined in the National Council's Rules of Procedure, which state that the National Assembly shall forward any EU subject submitted to it by the Government to the National Council. There shall be two Committees of the National Assembly dealing with European affairs. The European Affairs Committee shall be competent for the fist and the third pillar of the EU and the Foreign Affairs Committee shall be responsible for foreign affairs and security policy matters. A representative of the National Council shall be invited to sessions of the committees referred to above to present the National Council's opinion. The legal framework does not provide for a division of powers, however, in practice, the National Council may focus more on those EU issues which it considers more relevant with regard to its composition (the National Council is the representative of social, economic, professional and local interest groups).
3. With Slovenia's accession to the EU the Government gained greater jurisdiction as a legislative authority. None of the articles of the Slovene Constitution define the relations between the National Council and the Government, however, from what we have experienced so far, we should emphasise that our cooperation has been a very successful one. The government, or the competent Ministry, has always sent its representatives to the sessions of the National Council and its commissions where they present their position on the issues under discussion and regularly answer the questions posed by the National Councillors. Such practice shall also be applied in the area of EU affairs. We shall continue to invite representatives of the Government to our sessions, since this allows us to obtain first hand information on the Government's decisions and at the same time gives an opportunity to the representatives of the Government to hear the opinion of the National Council or one of its commissions. In this way the National Council presents its opinions to the Government and tries to influence its decisions. It is in the Government's interest to influence not only the formation of opinions of the National Assembly but also that of the National Council. The Government is aware of the importance of the decisions taken by the National Council that is why it actively participates in the work of the National Council.
4. In contrary to the National Assembly, the National Council has no representatives in the European Parliament. Due to its specific composition, which cannot be compared to any other EU institution, the National Council does not cooperate directly with the EU. However, it does participate in all COSAC (Conference of Community and European Affairs) meetings, sessions of the European Parliament's Committee on Equal Opportunities and other meetings and conferences.
5. The Constitution and the National Assembly's Rules of Procedure provide for the National Council's participation in the EU affairs matters. The Constitution entitles the National Council to convey its opinion on all matters within the competence of the National Assembly, meaning also EU affairs. The Rules of Procedure entitle the National Council to participate in the committees of the National Assembly dealing with EU affairs. We already have the right to cooperate with all other of its working bodies.
Slovenia's accession to the European Union shall also have an impact on the work of the National Council, however, no reforms of the operations of the National Council, its commissions and interest groups are necessary. When the National Council receives a matter related to the European Union it is assigned to the competent commission which adopts an opinion and then submits it to the National Assembly's working body. When dealing with highly relevant matters, a regular or an extraordinary session is convened by the President of the National Council, depending on the period of time available to the National Council to present its opinion. The key role in EU affairs is played by the European Relations and European Affairs Commission and the Collegium of the National Council, which is a consultative body of the President of the National Council.
The National Council is the representative of social, economic, professional and local interests and comprises representatives of 5 interest groups, namely the representatives of employees, employers, farmers, crafts and independent professionals, non-commercial activities and local interests. The position of a National Councillor is not a professional one; therefore, the Councillors carry out their functions in addition to the jobs they had been performing prior to being elected to the National Council. The Slovenian National Council with its composition and the way of functioning is a unique example in framework of the upper houses of the EU member states. That is why in the case of European affairs we cannot follow an example of any other EU member state. Due to our specificity we are strongly committed to the civil society issues and we believe our co-operation with the European Union is also possible in that respect. We have already organised several international conferences and meetings attended by representatives from the EU member states. In the future we also intend to invite representatives of the European Union to such events and in this way contribute to the shaping of the European rules in these areas.