A Parliament made up of 20 members? Such is the Andean Community’s. Each of the four member states sends five MPs to the Parliament’s venue in Bogotá, Colombia. Apart from lacking demographic proportionality, the body falls short of any meaningful competences – whether legislative, economic or political.
Compare to the European Parliament. Its 751 members represent parties rather than states, it is endowed with budgetary powers and, just as important, it can make and undo the EU government – i.e. the European Commission. Or can’t it?
Supranational parliaments abound. There are at least four of them in Latin America and four in Africa, all mimicking the European Parliament or the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council. None works. That is: they boast beautiful buildings, conduct meetings and issue declarations, but passing legislation, monitoring a regional authority or representing population rather than national governments is out of the cards. This is why the EP has always been considered uniquely powerful.
The 2014 European elections might cast a blow on this belief. A parliament is not a free-wheeling institution but a part of a composite government. A legislative branch is meaningless without an executive branch, as legal norms need to be enforced. The Eight European Parliament could end the dream of ever-growing competences, not because they are formally absent but because there is no actual government to be appointed, held accountable or removed in Brussels.
If power in Europe keeps drifting towards Berlin or Frankfurt, what parties do or citizens vote will matter little. Opposite to expected, the European Union is turning from standard-setting to standard-taking in world affairs: in political maneuvering as well as in economic management, it is an ever closer union – closer to the developing world.