Parliament of the Czech Republic  

  Minutes of the Meeting

The 5th meeting of the Association of European Senates
Prague, October 6. - 8. 2003

Minutes of the Meeting

Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues, Dear Guests, let me welcome you on the premises of the Senate.

     The music you heard is the fanfare from a composition by the Czech Baroque composer Vejvanovskı and is used to summon the senators to vote.

     Three years ago the President of the Senate of the French Republic Christian Poncelet initiated a meeting of several Presidents of the European Senates in Paris to found this Association and outline the trends of its activities. It happened in November 2000. Since then the delegations of European Senates have met already four times. The number of the represented second chambers was changing. In 2002 the second chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the newly reconstructed second chamber of the Russian Federation joined our Association. On the other hand, we have lost the Croatian regional house that in 2001 ceased to be a member of our Association due to extensive constitutional changes. At the same time we have information that foundation of the second chamber is contemplated in Ukraine, discussions in this respect are held also in Slovakia and in Hungary. Many existing second chambers undergo reforms changing their competencies and the manner of establishment.As a matter of fact the issue of the second chambers is discussed also in the countries that have abolished them. In short, the second chamber is a relatively unstable, changeable component in the European parliamentary systems.

     Let me recall for those of you who did not participate in all the meetings the topics these meetings were focused on.

     The first host of the meeting was the French Senate, where we discussed the relation between the second chambers and local governments.

     The second meeting in Brussels concentrated on the impact of the activities of the second chambers on the quality of legislation.

     The third topic we dealt with in Ljubljana included the links between bicameralism, democracy and the role of the civic society.

     And finally, the fourth meeting in Madrid focused on the control functions of the second chambers in general and partly also on their specific relation to the governments that act in the Council of the European Union as the European legislator.

     It is rather signifying that there is no similar association of the European houses, i.e. the first or lower chambers, but only the Association of Senates, whatever they are called. Undoubtedly it relates also to the fact that the existence and meaningfulness of the senates or the second chambers is from time to time questioned. I would say that this was or is the case of most European countries where the second chambers exist. Sometimes the criticism focuses on their very existence, sometimes on their particular manifestations, composition, activity, on a certain decision. Some European countries even abolished the second chambers in the past. Apart from the already mentioned Croatia it was the case of Denmark in 1953 and Sweden at the end of the sixties.

     Still I would insist on the fact that our Association has not been established as a sort of organization of defence of institutions recorded in the Red List of Threatened Species and our meetings should not be viewed as a manifestation of those who fight for survival. This certainly is not the case. Defensive approach has never been a characteristic feature of our meetings and we as the hosts of the Prague meeting shall do our best to prevent such approach from prevailing also this time.

     This determination of ours is reflected also in the selection of the topic of your today's speeches and the following discussion. This particular topic should clarify that the second chamber is not an institution which should or should have to face the attacks of opponents, if it is well constructed and fits in the constitutional framework. By this I have in mind mainly that it should be suitably established and balanced with regard to the first chamber.

     Nevertheless, once speaking of defence, it should be the defence of bicameralism as an expression of a certain belief in a good government. The defence of such a manner of government that offers space for plurality of opinions and prefers a profound repeated consideration of decisions to a mere expedition, rather than defence of individual senates. For we may similarly rightfully insist that the first chamber should also be suitably constructed with regard to the senate and if it is not the case its existence is problematic. In fact there is no prius and posterius, no order of importance. There either is or is not a purposeful division of roles and, consequently, division of responsibilities that as a whole creates prerequisites for an efficient parliament.

     Such a division presupposes a certain tension between the two chambers which, however, should be neither excessive nor negligible. Some roles and also some responsibilities must be therefore shared by the two chambers; otherwise there would be only fight and rivalry between them that would inevitably weaken the parliament as a whole in terms of the executive and judicial power. At the same time, it is namely the scope of the tasks of the present government and administration which is so wide that it virtually calls for the division of labour not only in terms of its control but also as concerns passing complex acts through which the governments today exercise to an increasing extent their authority. Sir Henry Maine comments laconically on the relation of the two chambers as follows: "Not a concurring infallibility, but an additional security."

     A bicameral parliament is in my view suitable - I do not say necessary, just suitable, in the complex societies as well as in the societies where democracy has not been deeply rooted, yet. What kind of societies are they? Complex societies are those that are more diverse in terms of nationalities, religion, history, etc., and they need not be only federal states. The determining factor in this respect is the interest in a more varied representation. The societies where democracy is not deeply rooted, yet, are those who have not experienced several substitutions of government by opposition and particularly those where the rule of law is not taken for granted, yet. There the interests are focused on the control and balancing of power.

     However, there exist grounds for bicameralism also in the countries that are relatively homogenous as well as in those countries where democracy in the sense of the rule of people and the rule of law is more or less guaranteed. If we leave aside the ever-present, although sometimes only latent, temptation of power to expand and become stronger, there still exists one more strong reason for the existence of the second chambers, the requirement for the quality of legislation. Another view, the hindsight, the view from another perspective, that is the view of the second chambers that as a rule improves the quality of bills. By this I do not have in mind only the improvement of the content, as such evaluation is always necessarily relative, but also the improvement of the process that will ensure a better reflection of voices of those whom the legislation concerns.

     Where the second chambers are weaker than the first ones, they may at least test the resoluteness and duration of will of the parliamentary majority to pass the respective act. In this respect many countries have at their disposal yet another, the third view - the power of veto of the head of the state and mainly the possibility to cancel acts or their parts by judgements of the Constitutional Court. This complies with the old Czech proverb which I am sure has its analogy also in other languages, namely "measure twice, cut once (look before you leap) "; sometimes it is even said "measure thrice".

     Thus the goal set by the Prague meeting does not consist in defending the existence of particular Senates or bicameralism as such. We go farther and ask when and under what preconditions bicameralism is efficient. As only such bicameralism may be defended.

     In order to make the discussion as concise as possible with regard to the time limits of this meeting we have directly suggested the following hypothesis: bicameralism is efficient when the two chambers are different. It is up to us to either rebut or confirm it. If we confirm it, it would be useful to find out how to ensure such a differentiation conducing to efficiency or what such a differentiation should consist in - competencies, political composition, style of work? Is duplication of the same actions by both chambers purposeful and to what extent, how does their relation change with identical or different political composition, how do they manage to preserve their identity in terms of what interests they represent and how do they represent them face-to-face with the dominance of political parties? Strictly speaking - we should examine the possibilities of ensuring the differentiation between the chambers, as there certainly does not exist only one single way.

     Thus at the beginning of our discussion we ask: is indeed the efficiency of bicameralism conditioned by the difference in the composition of the chambers and what efficiency should it be? Is there a demand for one or for more efficiencies? By this I mean efficiency with regard to different requirements as concerns the quality of legislation, ensuring of the rule of the people and on the enforcement of the rule of law rather than that of people. What is the optimal way how to ensure the respective efficiency, what tools to use, if we perceive them as the instruments of influencing the manners of the establishment of chambers by the constitution and rules in general, may we influence the composition of the chambers and their powers?

     Legitimate defence of the Senate, the second chamber, may be in my view always only the defence of the efficiency of bicameralism, it always must deal with both chambers simultaneously, and particularly with their differentiation and the reasons for such differentiation. Such a defence is not only legitimate but also psychologically more suitable with regard to a certain occasional tension or even rivalry between the two chambers. By this defence we do not intend to glorify the excellence of the second chambers and their alleged merits as compared to the lower or first chamber, what we praise are the merits of bicameralism, or to be more precise the reasons for the existence of a certain system of representation, the system of two rather than one chamber. Such arguments certainly do not create, let alone escalate the natural sound tension between the chambers.

     These are our hypotheses, our rationale that we wish to offer you at the beginning of the fifth meeting of the Association of European Senates. I believe that our debate will either rebut or confirm them, but most probably specify them. And this should be our task to make the questions more precise for the future as there are no definitive answers to them. In this diverse world we may only approximate to the truth by formulating appropriate hypotheses that imply in the sense of the teachings of Karl Popper the possibility to be rebutted, or using his words - falsified. It depends on us, the participants in this meeting, how we shall use the opportunity to confront our views, compare theory and practice of the chambers we head, to learn more about the conditions of meaningfulness and efficiency of a bicameral system.

     This system is characterized inter alia by one remarkable quality. The second chambers in this system vary from each other quite extensively; also this is a certain indicative sign. The variety of the first chambers is not in my view so significant as that of the second chambers. It seems that the second chambers have to adapt much more to the specific conditions of each country in order to constitute together with the first chamber one meaningful useful whole.

     Now, let me make some technical comments. Thanks to you and your staff we have collected filled in questionnaires relating to the topic of our meeting. They will be annexed to the collection of documents that we shall publish. It will include also your contributions, both the main papers and discussion. In the conclusion we shall try in all modesty and with all risks to make some sort of summary. For this reason minutes are taken of the whole proceedings. The collection of documents will be sent to you and it will be available also on the web sites of the Czech Senate.

     Information materials relating to the today´s proceedings have been distributed to you. Additional materials, particularly contributions of the participants, if available, you may find in the lobby in front of the Conference Hall where there is also our staff ready to answer any questions or help. You will find there also telephone, fax and copier. The computer centre is in the President Lounge to the right of the entrance to the Conference Hall. You have four computers with access to internet at your disposal.

     Coffee break will be at 11.00 a.m. in the Jièínskı and Frıdlantskı lounges. Lunch will be served at 12.30 a.m. in the Senate restaurant, before lunch a group photo will be taken in Salla terena in the garden of the Wallenstein Palace that you saw last night and where we shall go together.

     Speakers will be arranged according to the Czech alphabet, except for those who do not present the main papers. If your are interested in presenting a paper, please fill in the application.

     So much for the schedule of the conference where he have also included the topical discussion on the Intergovernmental Conference that should be as open as possible and therefore not binding.

     In the very conclusion of my speech I would like to mention once more the initiator of our meetings, our colleague Poncelet. It certainly makes sense that it was him who did so as the Senate of the French Republic belongs to what I would call the senate classic. France also gave birth to an ingenious thinker whose ideas have not in the least become obsolete. Although the name of Charles de Montesquieu will not be mentioned in every presentation, references to the theory of the division of power, to "checks and balances", as the Americans and the British would put it, will be undoubtedly one of the main threads of this meeting.

     Our dear friend Poncelet by his idea to examine gradually the present European bicameralism as a practical development of the theory of the division of the power, as its specific application to one of the three powers, i.e. the legislative power, has proved that he honours the tradition of the political thinking of the country of Charles de Montesquieu.

     That is why I would like to ask the President of the Senate of the French Republic Mr. Christian Poncelet as the first to take the floor.

Mr. Christian Poncelet, President of the Senate of the French Republic:

     Mr. President, Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends! Dear Mr. President Pithart, thank you for inviting us to your beautiful capital city to this fifth meeting of the Association of European Senates.

     Prague is one of the few cities that concentrate the European history, civilization and identity of Europe. Here we are in the very heart of our continent, here we feel particularly strongly the significance of our belonging to Europe.

     The topic of our meeting is the difference in the composition of chambers in our bicameral parliaments. This topic is closely connected with the role of the second chamber. And namely from this point of view I shall try to present the French bicameralism.

     In France, the second chamber was established in 1795 as a moderating factor in response to violent acts of the unicameral assembly that imposed terror. The unicameral assembly is an unjust assembly. Since that date bicameralism has been a constant of the French constitutional system, with the exception of a short period of the second republic that came to an inglorious end.

     But what should the composition of the second chamber look like to enable it to play the role of a moderating factor? For a period of 80 years we could not find any clue as to this issue.

     As you may know, the French constitutional system had been for a long period highly unstable, since 1789 we have changed the Constitution fourteen times. These changes have provided us with the opportunity to examine various models for the second chamber and finally, in 1875, the system of indirect election won, the body of electors for the Senate consists of the representatives of local governments. This system has been chosen in order to allow the second chamber to obtain a truly democratic basis and at the same time become the moderating factor ensuing from the indirect election of senators by the representatives of the local governments. If its members get their seats by appointment, it would not have adequate legitimacy as a counterbalance to the first chamber.

     It is noteworthy that the body of electors for the Senate has since 1875 consisted of the representatives of all types of representative offices. As a result today it is composed of the representatives of regions, departments and municipalities.

     Why has this system proved successful? First, because the desired aim has been achieved. The Senate elected on the basis of indirect universal suffrage, certainly does not have the same "demographic" legitimacy as the first chamber, the National Assembly. However, it has a democratic legitimacy which grants it sufficient weight to be able to play its role of a balancing force and a power counterbalance, mentioned by Montesquieu.

     Another reason is that this system coincides with the process of decentralization that has affected the development of the whole republic. In 1875 France was a strongly centralized country. Gradually, the state delegated ever greater powers to the bodies of local government and higher regional administrative units. This process accelerated after the last revision of the Constitution that sanctified the decentralized organization of our republic, i.e. the republic of territorial units.

     Therefore the Senate is a fully qualified parliamentary assembly and executes a double function: first, it contributes to the balance of three powers, but also ensures the representation of the local and territorial government bodies in the parliament. Thus the two chambers of the French Parliament have a different mission as well as the manner of establishment.

     Bicameralism will be able to ensure a balance only if the chambers are different. It is inadmissible to make the Senate a mere copy or replica of the National Assembly.

     Parliamentary chambers in France differ by the term of office: five years in case of deputies, six years in case of senators. Before that the term of office of senators lasted nine years. The Senate has reduced it on its own initiative to six years. On purpose we did not want to have the same term of office as deputies.

     And the electoral system is different, too. Deputies are elected on the basis of the majority system, senators partially by the proportionate and partially by the majority electoral system, it depends on the size of the department where they are elected. In the most densely populated departments they are elected by proportionate electoral system with the man/woman parity, while in the less populated departments the majority system is applied.

     Renewal is not subject to the same rules, either. The National Assembly is renewed as a whole. The Senate is renewed by thirds every three years. The National Assembly may be dissolved, while the Senate cannot. On the other hand, the Senate cannot pass a vote of no confidence in the government. Therefore it is a permanent assembly.

     The number of mandates is also different: the ratio is 577 deputies to 321 senators. The number of senators will gradually increase in the period of 2004 - 2010 to 346 in response to the demographic development of France, as requested by the Constitutional Council.

     What does the composition of the two chambers look like in this context? There is neither a significant difference in the representation of women (12 % in the National Assembly, 11 % in the Senate), nor in the composition by profession (in both chambers 40 % of members come from the state administration).

     The comparison is difficult in terms of the political membership, although we consider only the development since 1958 when the current Constitution came into effect. Political groups have never been absolutely identical in the two chambers. Some general comments may be made on this period:

  • the left has gained majority in the National Assembly several times in succession, however, in the Senate it has always been in the minority;
  • in the Senate, a significant position has always been taken up by centrist groups (both left and right centre), not so in the National Assembly;
  • the ultra-right has never been represented in the Senate;
  • the Communist party has always had lower representation in the Senate as compared to the National Assembly.

     Today, i.e. since 2002, the groups of political parties are almost the same in the National Assembly and in the Senate, in both cases it is the UMP group which is the strongest having 365 out of 577 seats in the National Assembly and 165 out of 321 seats in the Senate. The communist group is at present relatively more numerous in the Senate, with 23 seats out of 321, while in the National Assembly it has only 22 out of 577 seats. Several times in the course of the last twenty years the majority in the National Assembly and in the Senate were in direct opposition.

     How has this situation been reflected in the functioning of bicameralism? As soon as the Senate gets in the opposition, its control function is naturally immediately evaluated. However, this function has to manifest itself regardless of the political orientation of the governmental majority. But it has a greater impact when the Senate acts as a critical body that submits counterproposals.

     And what does the legislative function look like? Bicameralism "a la française" is in fact "two-speed". It is an equal bicameralism, which solely the government may make unequal by granting the last word to the National Assembly. But this "last word" depends on the fulfilment of certain conditions.

     First, every governmental bill is submitted either to the National Assembly or to the Senate. Subsequently, it travels between the chambers within their interaction. Various provisions are exposed to such a pendulum. The provisions that are in the course of the process of re-consideration adopted by both chambers are withdrawn from the discussion and the agenda includes only those issues about which the chambers have not agreed. A mixed parity commission is convened to examine them. And only when this commission fails to achieve an amicable solution, the National Assembly may have the last word. If entitled by the government to outvote the Senate, the National Assembly has to go back to the latest bill it has adopted, with amendments made by the Senate, as the case may be.

     Thus the legislative process is by all means conceived in such a way to support the adoption of the Senate's amendments by the National Assembly. As a result the Senate retains the legislative influence although each chamber has a different politically oriented majority. In this case the National Assembly adopts about one half of the proposed amendments of the Senate.

     When the majorities are of the same political orientation, this percentage is much higher, exceeding on average 80 %, a record score of 92 % was achieved during the last session in June.

     In this respect it should be noted that the "last word" of the National Assembly is far from being a rule, regardless of the majorities. Since 1958 outvoting has been used only in one out of eight acts, i.e. in 13 % of the bills. A great majority of acts (87 %) has been adopted by both chambers.

     I will draw three conclusions from the presentation of the French system:

  • first, the aim of our system is a clear differentiation of the two chambers, which is necessary in order to enable the second chamber to play its role of a moderating factor, a mediator;
  • secondly, our system significantly supports cooperation between the chambers in the legislative process. Bicameralism is a guarantee of two different views of laws as was a little while ago pointed out by Mr. President Pithart. The law is too important to be left up to the decision of only one representative body. The best acts have been adopted jointly by both chambers;
  • and finally: by representing local government bodies, the Senate complements the National Assembly. The National Assembly represents the population and the Senate territorial units, however, territorial units with their population.

     Thus I would summarize bicameralism "a la française" in three words: difference, cooperation and complementariness.

     Thank you, dear friends, for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you dear friend Poncelet. The French experience is highly relevant. France is indeed the country of the senate classic. We all shall remember your words that the Senate has come into being as a defence against terror as well as that the Senate is a sort of moderator. The search for an optimal position of bicameralism in your country took a long time and therefore it is most relevant. In any case it is evident that it does not lead to simplicity because neither the society nor life is simple. Thank you, our founder Poncelet.

     Now I would like to ask the President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Belgium Mr. Armand De Decker to take the floor.

Mr. Armand De Decker, President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Belgium:

     Mr. President, Dear Friend Petr Pithart! First I should like to thank you for receiving us in Prague, in this beautiful city; in the Wallenstein Palace which indeed concentrates the history of our Continent. I am very glad that the Senate of the Czech Republic has convened us here today to discuss a very important issue, namely whether a different composition of the chambers in the bicameral parliaments is a precondition of their efficiency.

     The recipe for an ideal bicameralism has been haunting political scientists and lawyers for quite a long time. Therefore there exist a number of analyses from which we may draw the common denominator that is usually recognized.

     In the bicameral parliamentary system the second chamber is necessarily different as without such a differentiation it would be a mere duplication of the first chamber which would weaken its justification. Such a system would be rather cumbersome: an equal bicameralism of identically composed chambers would not make much of a contribution. If the party discipline were the same, the governments would not allow either chamber to change the principles governing the bills. And finally - the main reservation - the two chambers would not be able to divide the labour between them.

     However, if the two chambers may independently develop their culture, then why should be the equal bicameralism inefficient, why should it not be justified? When stating this, we would have to say at the same time that unequal bicameralism will not face such difficulties in asserting itself. Mr. President, you were right when you said in the introduction that the systems of the second chambers differ in each of our countries, and this is a typical feature of the second chambers as compared to the first ones. The second chambers are also often exposed to criticism: the criticism by governments, criticism by the first chambers, as by their nature they play a role of the constitutional institutional counterbalance, as mentioned by Mr. Poncelet.

     Therefore it is important to take into consideration this specific role of the second chambers if we want to preserve their meaning. The specificity of the second chamber may be introduced in terms of its composition as well as its powers. In 1831, when the Belgian parliamentary system was established, the legislator chose unequal bicameralism in terms of composition. The Senate of 1831 followed the pattern of the Napoleon's Conservative Senate and was filled by the representatives of aristocracy and wealthy citizens. It was supposed to be the counterbalance to the highly progressive even revolutionary trends represented in the Chamber of Deputies, although rumour had it that it was rather a demagogy that prevailed there. A similar specificity is in contradiction with our modern vision of democracy. No wonder then, when we have found out that the Belgian Senate has lost in the course of individual constitutional reforms this specificity and this feature.

     During 20th century the Belgian bicameralism had become equal both in terms of the composition and the competence of the chambers: Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have the same composition. It means that both the deputies and senators are elected on the basis of the same criteria and both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate exercise the same powers.

     However, the nature resents emptiness and at the same time it does not like duplication of functions, and constitutional debates do not escape from these principles, either. In the course of the last thirty years, Belgium has gradually become a federal state. And this may be the reason why in 1993 the legislator re-introduced unequal bicameralism and specificity both as concerns powers and composition.

     Forty out of 71 senators are elected directly and express the necessity to give the Senate democratic legitimacy that would be indisputable. Although, after the reform of 1993 the Senate no longer has the possibility to overthrow the government as was the case of III. Republic in France, nor has the budgetary function which is assigned to the Chamber of Deputies, but it retains its legislative role which is of key importance.

     Twenty-one senators are designated by the representative bodies of individual national communities in Belgium. These senators are elected during regional elections and meet in sessions according to their affiliation to either the Flemish, Walloon or French community. As a result these 21 senators ensure the representation of the states that constitute the federation.

     And finally, 10 senators are not elected, they are co-opted by their colleagues. By co-optation the legislator chose to give preference to the factor of experience in the composition of the Senate and thus to turn it into a chamber based on reflection and a more profound consideration, i.e. into a chamber ensuring the quality of legislation.

     Since the reform of 1993, the Senate has been characterized by a hybrid composition reflecting these new competencies. And this is the basic rule for any legislative body. It is not coherent to separate the powers from the composition and the two components must be in harmony. The Belgian experience has taught us that the actual challenge is the search for such a model that would introduce the theory into practice. The work of only 21 senators of individual communities who in fact exercise a double mandate would impair the proper functioning of the Senate.

     However, how may we assume that the units constituting the federation participate in the federal legislation through the Senate and that the Senate reflects the structure of the country and is the meeting point of the regions and the state, when only 21 out of 71 senators would represent the units constituting the federation? And at the same time how can the Senate fulfil the second function, i.e. to be a legislative chamber and the chamber of reflection, when 21 out of 71 senators have a double mandate and, consequently, also a different time schedule of their work than the others?

     Dear colleagues, you may have already noticed that ambitious constitutional visions clash with reality. And in such a case it is necessary to seek a compromise between theory and practice, i.e. to change the composition of the Senate in order to improve the fulfilment of the respective tasks. As concerns the representation of the units constituting the federation, several models are being examined in Belgium. It would be possible to increase the number of senators who represent individual communities which is most probably the way we shall choose or it is in fact possible to break the link between the senators from the units constituting the federation and these units and appoint their substitutes.

     We have also noticed that the function of a co-opted senator should have a new content as it is very useful, at least in my view. To appoint to the Senate the representatives of civic society according to their professional and other experience, according to the value which they may add to the debate of the chamber that is supposed to inject the element of reflection into legislation. However, instead, the co-opted senator is often a person which was not elected in the preceding elections, or as the case may be, was for various reasons of the party balance on the list of candidates on the unelectable place. As a result, various ways are examined also in case of the co-opted senators. Although the Constitution preserves certain possibilities for direct election, the co-opted senators could within the first hypothesis represent some fields of activities - the university sphere, science and research, or within another possible solution the senators who are co-opted would not be candidates in the two preceding parliamentary elections which would provide them with a specific profile that would distinguish them from the senators who were elected directly either to the Senate or on the regional level.

     Mr. President, dear colleagues, I am not convinced that a different composition of the two chambers in bicameral parliaments is a precondition for their efficiency but it may facilitate their life. A different composition is not in my view an absolute necessity. On the other hand, I am deeply convinced that the efficiency of any parliamentary institution, be it a one-chamber or bicameral parliament, depends ultimately on the correlation between their powers and their composition. Thank you.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Belgium. We appreciate that as early as in the second presentation we heard a polemic voice. But as we have said, we present a hypothesis in order to either confirm or rebut it.

     The history of Belgium is quite different from that of France, today it is characterized by a federal structure, and in spite of it has undergone a similarly difficult search, and as Mr. President told us this search has not been finished, yet. We have listened very attentively to the deliberations on different concepts of co-opted senators. It is a topic that is connected namely with the concept of the Senate as the chamber of reflection, experience and a certain potential distance from everyday politics. And in the conclusion I would like to say that I have found most interesting what you said at the very beginning that the two chambers should develop their own cultures, their own political cultures, their own style of debate, arguing, decision making.

     In any case your speech, Mr. President, was highly stimulating.

     And now I would like to ask the President of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Mustafa Pamuk who is for the first time the guest of our Association, to take the floor. All the more I welcome you Mr. President.

Mr. Mustafa Pamuk, President of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina:

     Dear Colleagues, I would like to greet you on behalf of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and especially President of the Senate of the Czech Republic.

     I must say that I appreciate that I may be here with you. I represent Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country that has recently faced serious problems. As you all may know we now try to build a democratic state which as I believe will shortly joint the European integration groupings and will become a part of the European family. We believe in Europe and we believe also in the European democracy. Therefore we carefully listened to the experience of parliamentary democracies dealt with by the colleagues before me.

     I would like to present to you the current system in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

     Bosnia and Herzegovina is a democratic state following the Constitution and laws. Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities, The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian Republic, and at the same time it has three what we call constitutive nations: they are the Bosnians, Croats and Serbians. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there live also many ethnic minorities that enjoy all rights pursuant to the European and world standards. Thus Bosnia and Herzegovina granted by its Constitution the rights to all people from ethnic minorities.

     According to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina the supreme legislative body is the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina that has two chambers, namely the House of Peoples and the Chamber of Deputies. The House of Peoples or the Senate has 15 members that are elected from among all three constitutive nations. Five members of the Senate are elected from the entity called the Serbian Republic, ten members are elected from the entity called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina - five Bosnians and five Croats. All members of the Senate are equal; all decisions are adopted by the two chambers on an equal footing.

     As compared to the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate has two specific features that are regulated by the Constitution and the Rules of Order, namely it is entitled to be dissolved and also it makes decisions relating to the issues of vital importance to the nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

     What does it imply? As you may know, there was a conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina that could be called the conflict between nations as it involved violation of some national interests. And therefore it is the task of the Senate to protect national interests and balance them and ensure such conditions that will allow resolving all issues. It means that Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the moment one of the exceptional states in Europe that could not function properly without the Senate. We believe that the Senate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, naturally with the support of the European senates and also some support of the European Union, will qualitatively develop its work in our conditions.

     Therefore the purpose of my speech was to tell you what we in Bosnia and Herzegovina are doing now and that we shall always attend all meetings of this Association in order to gain more experience and overcome obstacles we shall encounter in the European integration.

     Once more I should like to thank you. I am very pleased that I may be here with you.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. President. I think it was for most of us for the first time that we have heard about the structure of your parliamentary system, about which specialized studies will be written in future and your country will be included in all sorts of comparisons. At first glance it seems that the reason for the existence of your Senate in your country is namely the fact that you are a typically complex society. Obviously this is also why your Senate is called the House of Peoples. We are glad that you have come and that you are interested in the active membership of our Association.


     Let me pass the chairing of the meeting to my colleague Vice-President Jan Ruml, so that I can deliver the speech on behalf of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.

Mr. Jan Ruml, Vice-President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Ladies and Gentlemen, now we shall hear the contribution of President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Petr Pithart.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     In our modern history the bicameral parliament worked de facto in the periods between 1920 - 1939, 1969 - 1992 and from 1996 onwards. The first two were Czechoslovak parliaments, in the third case has been the Czech Parliament.

     In between the wars the Senate was criticised on the grounds that its composition and mode of functioning made it a mere and less visible reflection of the Chamber of Deputies. And it was a rightful criticism. In reality, political decisions were made by the leadership of political parties of the ruling coalition outside of parliament.

     Likewise, both chambers of the Federal Assembly between 1969 - 1992 were similar as to their composition and symmetrical as to their respective powers. Usually, they worked in joint sessions; this kind of bicameralism is branded as fictional.

     In 1992, because of bad experience with the identity of parliamentary chambers, the authors of the constitution paid considerable attention to the differentiation of the chambers of the new parliament. They arrived at the conclusion that only chambers that will be set up differently could differ from each other in their composition and activity and that only such chambers will resist the control by a single political will. Only then can tension arise between the chambers, leading both to the supervision over the quality of legislation and to a system of checks and balances.

     The differentiation between the chambers was to be achieved by differences in the respective election systems, by conditions as to the right to be elected, the length of term, through the method of renewing the Senate and through its undissolvability. In practice, this was enhanced by different election terms (June for the Chamber of Deputies, October till November for the Senate). On the other hand, no wide-ranging discussion was held about the differentiation of those whom the chamber will represent. In the unitary state, the Senate as a representative of regions was refused, because among other reasons, the federal state was breaking up at that time; there was a wide-spread concern about similar processes within the Czech Republic.

     Both chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic are elected by secret ballot on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage. Every Czech citizen who has attained the age of eighteen has the right to vote. Every citizen who has attained the age of twenty-one may be elected a deputy and every citizen who has attained the age of forty may be elected to the Senate.

     The Chamber of Deputies is elected on the basis of proportional representation which, in concrete terms, means the election of two hundred deputies in fourteen regions on the basis of D´Hondt method of allocating votes to mandates. Eighty-one senators are elected in single seat constituencies in an absolute majority system. In order to win in the first round the candidate must get more than fifty per cent of the total ballot. If there is no such candidate, a second round takes place with the top two candidates; the winner is one who gets more votes. Every constituency has on average 120 thousand inhabitants.

     All Czech parliamentarians are elected. Only in 1920 was there a discussion about forming one part of the second chamber differently, by appointment for instance. Over the last few years, we hear from time to time that the regional presidents (the highest representatives of the local government in the fourteen regions, the "hejtmans") could become senators ex officio.

     Aside from the differentiation of conditions for the right to be elected, the number of members and the election system, there is now also a differentiation as to the length of the term. The Chamber of Deputies is elected for four years, it is renewed as a whole and can be dissolved under some specific circumstances. The Senators have a six years term, one third of the Senate is renewed every two years and the second chamber is undissolvable.

     A great many attributes of the Czech Senate have been taken over from the USA or from France. To justify them, we could take for instance the Federalist Papers, namely those by James Madison: the higher age of senators was justified by a greater scope of necessary knowledge and skills. The length of the mandate is both a precondition of a higher independence vis-a-vis the volatile moods of the electorate and a possibility to accumulate experience acquired in the parliament. If senators are not to become victims of the tyranny of passion as the deputies are, they must represent a less numerous body. This will enable the development of the sense of personal responsibility in each of them and, at the same time, it will make it possible for the electorate to better exercise supervision. Partial renewal of the Senate contributes to the continuity of the legislature: single elections will not bring about a radical shift in the legislative process. Moreover, an unstable government erodes the confidence and decreases the prestige of the country abroad.

     However, till now, I have spoken only about the different features promoting differentiation and not about the reality of the past almost seven years. Since I have spent all these years in the Senate, I can say on the basis of my own personal experience that the Senate is different from the Chamber of Deputies. But at the same time I think that it is evolving: periods of stronger influence by political parties are alternating with periods of stronger identification of senators with their chamber - a bond which can be stronger than a party affiliation. A more firm pressure by political parties can be noticed usually when the parties grasp the real significance of the second chamber. When it is no longer a matter of "only" some amendments to ordinary bills but also a matter of deciding on amendments to the Constitution or on far-reaching reforms, political parties start to influence their senators much more intensively than before. But they are limited for instance by the rather long and, thanks to the undissolvability of the Senate, secure mandate of the senator.

     While now it is the representatives of political parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies who dominate amongst the senators, there are also representatives of small regional parties or independent senators. In the Chamber of Deputies, those deputies who are not members of a political group are a total exception - there are usually no more than two - that is one per cent, senators not affiliated to any party faction are quite a common phenomenon in the Senate - at present they are eight, i.e. ten per cent. Throughout the years we have been able to find quite a number of political groups - both in the Chamber and in the Senate - which had no counterpart in the other chamber, for instance in 2002 the political group of the independents was set up in the Senate but is not present in the Chamber of Deputies. Moreover, often the ratio of the individual political parties´ groups differs as well: typically, the governing social democratic party has seventy deputies, which is thirty-five per cent of the total number of deputies, but only ten senators, that is some twelve per cent of all the members of the upper house! As to the representation of the right and the left, the Senate has constantly been right-of-centre and the representation of left-wing political entities has been weakening.

     I would say, not only because of the structure of the political factions in the Senate but also because of a weaker party discipline, that the situation in the Senate is less clear-cut. Therefore, when it comes to the vote, it is usually not enough to simply count all those present but it is also necessary to convince them by rational arguments. And it is this, amongst other things, that I consider to be the contribution of the second chamber to the process of cultivating the political and parliamentary culture, a contribution which can hardly be provided by chambers deciding about the very existence of government.

     A different composition of the Senate and in many instances even differences between the political type of a senator and the political type of a deputy make it possible, for the Senate, to fulfil the function of reviewing bills passed by the Chamber of Deputies and the function of checks and balances. I venture to say that it is the prerequisite of the willingness to enter into conflicts which in my opinion is more important than the final result. If at the end the Chamber of Deputies outvotes the Senate, it is on the Chamber's own responsibility; it had an opportunity to reassess its decision. The Senate cannot be defeated on fundamental issues. For instance out of fourteen constitutional bills, only nine were approved by the Senate.

     If I were now to answer in one sentence the question raised at this meeting I cannot but say the following:

     From the point of view of our Czech experience of almost seven years, the different composition of the chambers really proves necessary for an effective bicameralism. It is certainly not an issue of differentiation at any cost but of a differentiation that is beneficial to the quality of legislation, prevents sharp and often ill-considered changes and an excessive influence of leading bodies of political parties, because all this usually decreases the legitimacy of parliamentary democracy.

     Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Jan Ruml, Vice-President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you Mr. President. As the last before the coffee break we shall hear the Vice-President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Italy Mr. Lamberto Dini. Please take the floor.

Mr. Lamberto Dini, Vice-President of the Senate of the Republic of Italy:

     Let me thank you for your hospitality and for the warm welcome in the seat of the Senate in the beautiful capital city of the Czech Republic.

     Underlying the evocative title of this meeting of ours is an issue that is fundamental to all bicameral systems, namely the relationship between the functions of the two chambers and their composition. Bicameralism stems from the need to represent heterogeneous social groups. This is the reason that led England to have its Assembly meet in two chambers - the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

     In our era, the principal reason for the division of parliaments into two chambers lies in the need to represent, on the one hand, the body of citizens as a whole and, on the other, the individual member states of a federal state or the territorial subdivisions of a unitary state.

     Also the experience of the Republic of Italy paradoxically confirms the close links between functions and composition of the two Houses - two Houses that today have the same functions and are thus composed in a similar way with a politically homogeneous result.

     As Italy emerged from the fascist regime, the decision of the Constituent Assembly was to make the focus of the institutional system a strong Parliament, comprising two Chambers to which the same functions were assigned: the same lawmaking powers, the same function of in terms of the confidence of the Government. Nevertheless, during the debate in the Constituent Assembly the discussion focused strongly on the advisability of making a clear distinction between the compositions of the two Chambers. The most widely debated proposal was that of making the Senate a professional chamber. This and other proposals were, however, rejected.

     Today, therefore, only a few features distinguish the two Chambers. In the first place, while the Chamber of Deputies is exclusively elective, the Senate also comprises five life senators nominated by the President of the Republic "from among those who have honoured their country through their exceptional merits in the social, scientific, artistic and literary fields"; also the former Presidents of the Republic are life members of the Senate. The requirements for voters and candidates are also different: for the Senate only those over the age of twenty-five are entitled to vote while it is necessary to be over the age of forty in order to stand for election; all citizens of legal age can vote for the Chamber of Deputies while candidates for election must be over the age of twenty-five. Further, the number of senators elected is only half of that of the deputies. The electoral laws are different, although so far they have produced politically homogeneous results.

     In the original text passed by the Constituent Assembly, also the term of office of the Senate was different, six years, while that of the Chamber is five. A motion approved by the Constituent Assembly envisaged radically different electoral systems: in the original idea, the Senate was to be elected by a single-member majority or "first past the post" system, while the Chamber of Deputies was elected by the proportional system.

     In practice, both these differences (term of office and electoral system) have disappeared. The term of office of the two Chambers was formally equalized in 1963, thus codifying a practice in which the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies was accompanied by an early dissolution of the Senate. Although based on a single-member constituency, until 1993, the electoral system functioned in a wholly proportional way. Since 1993, both the Chamber and the Senate have a substantially homogeneous mixed electoral system (a majority system for the election of three quarters of the members and a proportional system for the remainder).

     These two differences, therefore, which might have led to a clear diversity in the political composition of the two Chambers, were eliminated precisely on the basis of the consideration of the perfect equality of the functions of the two Chambers. We have two Chambers that both have to accord the Government their confidence and must therefore have the same political composition in order to avoid paralysing the system. The Italian experience thus provides further evidence of the extraordinary link, correlation between the structure of the two Chambers and their function.

     For many years in Italy the debate on the bicameral system was focused essentially on the efficiency of the bicameral structure, in other words, how to avoid the subdivision into two Chambers, both with the same powers, acting as a hindrance to the decision-making processes.

     In this connection it should be noted that as far as the legislative procedure is concerned, despite the perfect equality in the attribution of the two Chambers, which could lead to a delayed approval of bills, there is also a characteristic specific feature in the Italian system: the possibility of entrusting to parliamentary Committees, operating "in a legislative capacity", the task of approving bills.

     The recent constitutional revision tending towards a pronounced devolution of functions of the State to the Regions (constitutional Act no. 3/2001) has sparked a debate in Italy on the advisability of introducing a differentiation of functions in the two Chambers. This differentiation would inevitably lead to a distinction in the criteria followed in forming the two Houses.

     The initial response to this need is contained in the concluding article of the Act of Constitutional Revision I have cited. It actually makes provision for the inclusion of "representatives of the Regions, the Autonomous Provinces and the local authorities" in the joint bicameral parliamentary committee for regional matters. This provision, which would introduce a mixed body into the heart of our bicameral system, in which members of the two Chambers would sit side by side with the representatives of the regions and the other local authorities, has not been implemented, yet.

     In the last few days the government has announced the presentation of a new constitutional revision initiative. In all likelihood, therefore, the issue of the differentiation of the functions of the two Chambers will again be brought to the focus of the Italian political attention. The objective, which is approved by many, is to implement what the members of the Constituent Assembly had already foreseen. Paragraph 1 of Article 57 of the Italian Constitution states that the Senate of the Republic "is elected on a regional basis". In accordance with this principle, paragraph 2 of Article 57 states that no region, with two exceptions, can have a number of senators less than seven. Already today this guarantees that even the smaller regions have a representative weight that does not correspond only to the number of inhabitants in the given constituency. However, in practice, this element has so far failed to make the Senate a body that is truly representative of the local territorial situation. By the introduction of this system the Senate will become a true representative of the reality of individual territorial units.

     I have listened and will continue to listen very carefully to the contributions presented at our meeting by several colleagues, which could provide valuable ideas for the debate that is beginning in Italy.

     Indeed I believe that the tasks of this Association of ours should include that of suggesting common indications, based on the different experience that point in the direction of the construction of a more cohesive Europe that is nevertheless able to appreciate the benefits of autonomy as well as the activity of self-governing territorial units.

     Thank you Mr. President.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     I thank our colleague Mr Dini. Vice-president of the Senate of the Republic of Italy has documented that the debate about the difference in chambers does not necessarily be only academic. In Italy it is obviously a question that stirs up the political system. We do not forget that Italy is the country on the territory of which this institution has come into being and was given its name.

     I think that it has been proved that we have chosen a good question of our meeting and that we have rightly put the question mark at its end. We did not mean by it a rhetorical question. Indeed, it is being confirmed that each country accentuates different issues relating to the potential differentiation of the two chambers. And so it was another most inspiring speech, colleague Dini. Thank you.

     Now we shall have a break for coffee which will be served in the Frıdlantskı and Jièínskı lounges. We shall reconvene here at 11.20 a.m. Thank you.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Dear Colleagues, please take your seats, we shall continue. I would like now to ask the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Czech Republic Ms. Veldhuizen-Rothenbücher, to take the floor. She will herself explain why the representative of the Senate of the Netherlands could not attend this meeting. Please.

Ms. Ida Leonore van Veldhuizen-Rothenbücher, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Czech Republic:

     Dear Mr. Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, dear presidents of European senates, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen! On behalf of the President of the First Chamber of the States General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands let me thank you President Pithart that you have agreed to host and organize 5th Meeting of the Association of European Senates here in Prague in the Czech Republic.

     Unfortunately Ms. President of our Senate could not come due to the sudden death of three members of the Senate in the Hague. Therefore she has asked me to convey her sincere greetings and wishes for successful discussions, and tell you that she is looking forward to seeing you at the next meeting or even before. Thank you.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Your Excellency. The apology is sad and more than justified. We look forward to meeting next time. Now Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland Mr. Longin Hieronim Pastusiak will take the floor.

Mr. Longin Hieronim Pastusiak, President of the Senate of the Republic of Poland:

     Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues! Let me join the previous speakers who have expressed their thanks to our host, President Pithart for inviting us here and providing such marvellous conditions for our meeting.

     The issue of the cooperation of the two chambers of the parliament is of vital importance for the future of Senates as such. Let me at the beginning point out several fundamental theses.

     The more differences between the two chambers the better and higher the legitimacy of the second chamber. The differences may be of course numerous and some of the have been already mentioned here. There may be a number of differences in the competencies, responsibilities, composition, the system of elections; there may exist different criteria for the choice of the respective differences. However, we may also find a number of other different parameters.

     I represent a country with a very long parliamentary tradition, dating back to 15th century. The first Polish Senate was created in 1493. When talking to my American colleagues I always say that one year after Christopher Columbus discovered America, we had a Senate in Poland.

     The history of the Polish parliamentarism may be an interesting study for all of us. Since the very beginning, the Polish parliament has been composed of two chambers. The Senate, as all the Senates at that time, was of course not elected democratically and represented the aristocracy and high rank clergy. Its members were nominated by the king on a life-long basis. At the end of 18th century the Senate already became a vital tool in the creation of law in Poland. Unfortunately with the loss of our independence in 1795 the Senate was dissolved. After regaining independence at the end of World War I, the Polish Senate was reborn in its modern form. From then on the elections were already held on a democratic basis and we can say that the Senate truly represented the whole society.

     Nevertheless, the Constitution of 1935 changed the system of elections to the Senate: one third of the Senate was appointed by the President of the Republic and two thirds of the members were elected by a selected group of electors, special electoral boards).

     The Polish Senate of today dates back to 1989 when it was restored on the basis of the Round Table negotiations between Solidarity and the Communist Party. The free elections to the Senate in June 4, 1989 showed the power of the opposition which won 99 of 100 seats and marked the end of the Communist period in the history of Poland. The Senate became a vital actor of the changes that occurred after the fall of the Berlin Wall, passing bills necessary to transform both the political and economic systems.

     According to the Polish constitutions of 1997, there are little differences between the two chambers of the Parliament. Both chambers are elected on the same day, both have the same term of office. Nevertheless, the electoral system varies - Sejm (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament) is elected on the proportional basis, people vote for the party list, while the Senate is elected by the majority election system on the basis of different constituencies.

     Poland is a unitary, not a federal state. Article 104 of the current Polish Constitution clearly states that members of parliament "shall be representatives of the Nation. They shall not be bound by any instructions of the electorate ".

     We are aware that the current system is not ideal and we have launched a political debate about possible changes. There have been voices about elimination of the Senate as a whole, but now these voices are heard only rarely.

     In the current stage of the discussion, we are thinking about changing the electoral system, so that the Senators, unlike the lower house, are elected in single mandate electoral districts. This will help in binding the Senators more closely with their local communities and help in transforming the Senate into a chamber representing the Polish regions more profoundly. Thus, 383 thousand inhabitants would be the size of such electoral districts represented by one senator. This proposal - which in fact is a sort of structural change from multi-mandate to single mandate districts - has been already prepared and soon it will be submitted for discussion in the Senate.

     We are also discussing the possibility of changing the Senate into a chamber that will monitor the European Union legislation according to the Protocol of the control of principles of subsidiarity and proportionality of the Constitution of the European Union. The Senate has played a very active role in the harmonisation of the Polish law and norms with the legislation of the European Union, the so called acquis communaitaires. We have amended a whole number of bills submitted by the lower chamber in order to facilitate this harmonisation with the Community law.

     Nevertheless, it is clear that the discussions about the changing role of the Senate in Poland will continue.

     In the conclusion it may be summarized that Poland has gone a long way from a Senate representing the upper classes of the society to a Senate representing the whole society.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, after more than five centuries of the existence of the Polish Senate we are still experimenting with new ideas as to its role in the Polish political system in order to make it more efficient and more responsive to the expectations of the Polish society.

     And now let me, Mr. President, mention another two issues not necessarily related to the topic we are discussing.

     First, as you may know Poland has been entrusted with the organization of 6th meeting of our Association. And it is a pleasure for us to invite you to Warsaw in May 24 - 25, 2004 - (Monday and Tuesday). The proposed topic is "The Role of National Parliaments in the European Union".

     As a matter of fact, May 2004 will also be the first month of the membership of new states of the European Union and the number of the Union members will thus increase to 25. For us, the new members, it will be naturally very interesting to hear the opinions of those, so to say, old members of the European Union on how in fact the national parliaments function within the EU, what should be and what are the relations between the national parliaments and the European Parliament. I think this could be a very interesting topic in May next year when we shall meet already as the EU members. I would like to hear you opinion in this respect.

     And then I have yet another issue. We all have got the document "Statutes of the Association of European Senates". In my view it is already rather out of date and needs certain updating. I think we should amend this document as for instance it still includes the Croatian Chamber of Districts which is no longer the member of the Association as it ceased to exist. On the other hand, we have here the delegation of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, i.e. the second chamber, which is member of the Association and is not listed in the document.

     I would also like to know what the situation of the Irish and the British looks like, why they are not members of our Association. Maybe we should take some steps to enlarge our Association, to make it more universal.

     So much for my part. Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. Marshal. I think we all shall remember the date 1493, not only because it is one year after Columbus discovered America, but also because it is the beginning of a remarkably long history of the Polish Senate.

     Neither could we miss, dear Longin, your clear message relating to the connection between the Polish independence and the Polish freedom and the existence of the Senate. The end of independence and extinguishment of freedom entails also the end of the Senate. I want to believe that his connection is significant not only for you but for all of us.

     I asked Mr. Marshal, to give us his idea about the topic of our next meeting already now so that we have time enough during the day to comment on it and at the end of the meeting of our Association to confirm or specify the offer of our future host.

     Thank you, Mr. Marshal. And now I will ask the President of the Federal Council of the Republic of Austria Mr. Hans Ager to take the floor.

Mr. Hans Ager, President of the Federal Council of the Republic of Austria:

     Thank you, dear Mr. President. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends.

     First, I wish to thank sincerely Mr. President of the Czech Senate Dr. Petr Pithart for the hospitality and magnificent organization of this meeting.

     Our hosts have included in the beautiful new book on the Czech Senate also the chapter dealing with bicameralism in the Czech history. And this chapter begins with the year 1848 and the then constitutional debate in the Austrian Imperial Diet that started first in Vienna and then moved to Kromìøí¾ (Kremsier).

     In the course of this debate it became apparent that the bicameral system was considered by the members of the then members of the Austrian Parliament as part of the constitutional framework. Nobody doubted the necessity of the establishment of the second chamber, the discussion concerned only the organizational form and function. That was the subject of the debate.

     Seventy years later after the foundation of the Republic of Austria as well as of the Czechoslovak Republic the situation was different. In both countries in the constitutional discussion certain political forces, social democracy in particular, set the requirement for the establishment of a one-chamber system, in spite of it the system of two chambers had been enforced in both countries and today it belongs to the constitutional fundamentals both in the Republic of Austria and in the Czech Republic.

     As of today, bicameral parliaments have been established in 19 out of 47 democratically structured European states and the investigation of 1997 showed that bicameral parliaments were in 66 out of 193 states of the world. Thus the bicameral principle continues to be an inherent quality of both political theory and political practice.

     However, what may be the significance of the second chamber in modern democracy, what is its function? Answers to these questions follow two directions. First, - and this is in fact the only justified argument for the existence of two politically identically structured chambers - so first, it is the improvement of the quality of the product of the parliamentary process, i.e. legislation. On the other hand, emphasis is put in this respect on the function of representation of certain interests. The latter function is older.

     While the idea to attribute the central role in the system of "checks and balances" to the second chamber presupposes that this second chamber will assume mainly in the legislative process the same or at least approximately the same position in terms of the procedure as the first chamber, this does not necessarily apply to the perception of the second function which I have mentioned, that is the function of the improvement of the quality of the legislative process: from a separate discussion of the respective matter in two chambers - independently of their political composition - this argumentation pattern expects a more profound settlement of the respective matter, from the involvement of the second chamber as a "control chamber" in the legislative process the chance to correct the hastily adopted or ill-considered resolutions before they take the legal effect.

     And yet another function is attributed to the second chamber as "the chamber of reflections", namely the function of reflecting those essential issues that the first chamber overloaded by everyday political administrative work cannot deal with, thus guaranteeing a long-term quality of the political process.

     Therefore in order to perform this function of ensuring the quality it is enough to equip the second chamber, unlike the first chamber, with other competencies in the legislative process, as a rule with the suspensory veto. The comparison of competencies of the two chambers - or their exercising - thus shows what function is allocated to the second chamber in the constitutional order, or what function it exercises in the constitutional reality.

     Ideally, the two chambers may be equal or the second chamber may be equipped with lesser powers as compared to the first chamber. However, in many political systems it is possible to trace also an intermediate stage, and namely that even with entirely or approximately the same constitutional legal position of the two chambers, the second chamber leaves the prerogative of law making to the first chamber and uses its competence only moderately, be it either due to the deficit of legitimacy perceived by its members or in 20th century increasingly due to the party-state conditions. Shifting of the central function towards ensuring of the quality of legislation in 20th century resulted also in a constitutionally political tendency towards lesser powers of the second chamber as compared to the first one.

     Of the general vision that the function of the second chamber consists in ensuring the freedom through the division of legislative power, in 20th century only one argumentation line and, consequently, one type of the second chamber has asserted itself both in theoretical discussion and practical politics - namely the idea and type of a regional chamber that is competent in the federal state to defend regional freedom of individual federal states with regard to the abstract all-state majority. As a result, also in the countries that do not have officially a federal structure, such as Spain, the second chamber has a significant function of representing regions.

     Also the Austrian Federal Council, which I have the honour to represent, is as the chamber of states competent to reflect the interests of the federal states in the process of the federal legislation. In a modern plurality state the interests of federal states and the all-state interests naturally overlap and the political parties operating both in the regional units and on the nationwide level have the intermediary function.

     A specific dynamics characteristic of the development of a modern society of course also implies that the mechanisms of creation of the will of the state conceived under different social framework conditions must be continuously reviewed in terms of whether they correspond to the spirit of the time or whether they have to be adjusted to the changed framework conditions. In this respect, a bold project of the preparation of the revision of constitution has been recently launched in Austria. A convention composed of representatives of the federal level, federal states, municipalities and various social groups called in short "The Austrian Convention" has convened in order to draw up proposals of the state and constitutional reform. The discussion should include also the tasks and goals of the state as well as the state institutions and their structures, division of tasks among regional units and the rules of democratic supervision.

     The parliamentary bicameral system in Austria thus faces a new step in its development. Parliaments in general, and the second chambers in particular, must similarly as all state institutions re-consider their function in the modern society and adapt to the needs of citizens from whom their legitimacy derives.

     If within this framework the second chambers, including the Austrian Federal Council, feel particularly competent to defend the regional aspects in both the national and European politics, I perceive it as a relevant expression of the increasing awareness of the significance of regional identities which is conveyed also in the formulation "Europe of Regions" as an expression of politics that is close to citizens and that must be for us, the members of parliaments, the central mission.

     Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you for your well conceived contribution with theoretical and historical aspects of the development of Europe. I hope I am not mistaken if in this respect I mention the tradition of the Austrian deliberations on bicameralism. One of your predecessors, Professor Herbert Schambeck, was President of the second chamber and at the same time one of the most prominent European theoreticians of bicameralism. Meeting with him at the time when our Senate was coming into being, was most inspiring to us. Please give our best regards to Professor Schambeck.

     I thank you very much also for mentioning the episode of the Upper House that the Austrian, Czechs, Moravians and Silesians shared in the last but one century.

     Now I would like to ask Janez Su¹nik, President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia to take the floor.

Janez Su¹nik, President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia:

     We would like to thank Mr. President for inviting us to 5th Meeting of the Association of European Senates. Let me thank you, Mr. President for the excellent organisation of this conference as well as for the hospitality that is being extended to us. We also appreciate that our 5th Meeting takes place on the premises that are filled with history and beauty.

     Our chamber has a very short tradition. It was founded on the basis of the Constitution of 1991 after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The National Council of the Republic of Slovenia is a representative body that as stipulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, represents social, economic, professional and local interests. Its two fundamental constituent parts are the representatives of working and social interests ("functional interests") and representatives of local interests - territorial interests.

     These interests cover practically all main segments of the society and are confronted among themselves by forty councillors- four of them representing employers, four representing employees, four representing farmers, small businesses and independent professional persons, six representing non-profit making organizations and twenty-two representing local interests.

     Interests of various social groups come together in the National Council in an institutionalised way and decisions are made after the exchange of opinions on the expert level. With the intention to safeguard the high level of professionalism and to exclude political interests from the activities of the National Council the legislator has determined that the councillors besides their function they hold in the Council keep pursuing their profession falling into one of the interest groups represented in the National Council and thus keep a daily contact with the sphere they represent.

     The National council is composed in such a way to neutralize the influence of political parties that take part in the legislative procedures undertaken by the National Assembly. However, in spite of all good intentions of the legislator it cannot be said for sure that political parties have no influence whatsoever in the National Council.

     From the stated above it arises that the National Council, in contrast to the National Assembly, is not the representative of all the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia but that it represents only individual social interests. Its position and its structure thus call for a relevant electoral system that has to differ from the electoral system valid for the National Assembly. Basic differences are in the manner of elections, in the right to vote, in the role of political parties, in the system of the distribution of mandates and the terms of office.

     The National Council is formed completely by elections which means that the membership can be acquired solely by elections and not in any other way, e.g. by nomination due to a position and the like. The manner of elections of the National Council members is not regulated by the Constitution but full power is given to the legislator to regulate the matter in the law that is to be adopted by a two-third majority.

     The structure of the National Council, its position and competences call for indirect elections carried out in the relevant interest organizations and/or local communities. Indirect elections enable a closer connection between the members of interest groups and their representatives than direct elections. It is specifically for this reason that with such election the representation of political parties is not necessary which is otherwise indispensable in elections of a general representative body. As has already been mentioned, the political influence is not completely excluded from the activities of the National Council.

     The strongest influence of political parties is exercised through the councillors that represent local interests. They are elected by the representative bodies of local communities, formed on the basis of general elections where the role political parties is of decisive importance. In comparison to local interests politics, has much weaker influence on the representatives of functional interests.

     To determine the right to vote the legislator took as a basis the constitutional provision stipulating that the right to vote is the right of every citizen who has reached the age of eighteen. Contrary to the right to vote to the National Assembly, the right to vote to the National Council is not universal and equal as it is enjoyed only by the persons who are the representatives of the interest groups with a guaranteed representation in the National Council. The right to vote the members of the National Council is thus given only to the persons that pursue a relevant activity or those who are in the employment relationship in the framework of interest activities represented in the National Council and the right to vote the representatives of local interests is given to the persons that permanently reside in the constituency for these elections.

     Contrary to the right to vote to the National Assembly which is enjoyed only by the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia, also foreign citizens have the right to vote to the National Council. The Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia states that it can be determined by the law in which cases and under what conditions the right to vote may be given to foreign citizens. The legislator has, at the adoption of the Act on the National Council, decided to use this constitutional possibility and has granted the right to vote to the foreign citizens that permanently reside in the Republic of Slovenia or pursue a relevant activity and/or are in an employment relationship. However, their right to vote is only an active one. This means that the foreigners have the right to vote the representatives of electoral bodies and/or members of the National Council, they can be electors but are not granted the passive right to vote, they cannot be members of the National Council. The reason for this limitation is that the National Council is a state organ with important competences in the legislative field and so foreign citizens cannot be its members.

     The councillors of the National Council are, in contrast to the deputies in the National Assembly whose term of office lasts four years, elected for a five-year term. The general elections to the National Council are called by the President of the National Assembly which is in contrast to the elections to the National Assembly that are called by the President of the State. If the term of office of a councillor expires before the end of the five-year term the President of the National Assembly calls by-elections for the vacant seat in the National Council.

     Differently from the elections to the National Assembly that are carried out on Sunday or any other holiday the elections to the National Council can be carried out also on a working day. It is not necessary that the elections take place on the same day, the only condition laid down by the law is that the elections are held within the same week.

     The representative in the National Council are elected by indirect elections according to the principle of relative majority. According to this principle the mandate is given to the candidate with the highest number of votes. In the event when two or more candidates receive an equal number of votes the candidate is decided by drawing lots.

     The issue of elections of the members of individual interest groups is specially regulated by the law due to their quite different position in the interest groups.

     The elections of 18 members of the National Council - the representatives of functional interests - are carried out in electoral assemblies by electors elected by interest organizations in accordance with their rules. Each interest organization (Chamber of Commerce, Union, Association, Society and other professional organizations on a national basis) nominates into the electoral body a certain number of electors. That number depends on the total number of the members of an interest organisation. Each of these organizations elects to the electoral body one representative and an additional representative on a decided number of the members. In this way the interest organizations of employers elect an additional representative on every ten thousand members, professional organizations of farmers elect an additional representative on every thousand of the members, professional organizations of small businesses on every five hundred members, organizations of independent professions and non-profit making organizations on every hundred members.

     Every interest organization nominates one member or more as a candidate for a member of the National Council. In case that an interest organization proposes more candidates the possibilities for the election of whoever from among its candidates are smaller as the votes may be distributed.

     The four representatives of employers are elected by chambers of commerce and employers´ associations with a national organization.

     The four representatives of employees are elected by an electoral body composed of elected representatives of representative trade unions with national organization, i.e. the trade unions that the legislation with regard to their membership takes as representatives of workers in various fields of work.

     The interest group of farmers, small business and independent professions consists of four members. Each professional organization of small businesses and independent professions is represented by one member elected by an electoral body elected from professional organizations of small businesses and independent professions with a national organization. The biggest group is the farmers who have two representatives in the National Council elected by an electoral body composed of elected representatives of professional farmers´ organizations organized on a national basis.

     The field of elections of the representatives of non-commercial activities is the most extensive and has the most versified structure. The legislator had no criteria whatsoever in the Constitution to determine which non-commercial activities should have their representatives in the National Council. Further on, in the discussions on the law a standpoint was formed according to which the interests of non-commercial activities are represented by: one representative of universities and higher education, one representative for the area of education, one representative for the area of research activities, one representative for the area of culture and sport, one representative for the area of health care and one representative for the area of social security.

     As concerns the elections of the representatives of local interests their first elections were direct. The legislator decided for such a form due to the fact that the reform of the local administration had not yet been carried out and because of that fact the indirect elections would not be suitable in the transitional period as they should lean on the then organization of the local administration which was to be altered already during the term of office of the National Council which in fact happened.

     Presently the Act on the National Council defines that twenty-two representatives of local interests shall be elected by the local communities. For the elections of the representatives of local interests the Republic of Slovenia was by a special law divided into twenty-two constituencies. In this way from each constituency that are from geographical, historical and interest point of view integral units, one member of the National Council is elected.

     The members of the National Council are also in this case elected by a special electoral body which can in some cases be the representative body of the local community, if the members of the National Council are voted in the constituency that covers the territory of a single local community, or they can be elected by a different electoral body, composed of elected representatives of local communities when the members of the National Council are elected in the constituency covering the territory of two or more local communities.

     The Community Council of each community can submit to the electoral body a certain number of electors in proportion to the number of inhabitants of the community. In contrast to the interest organizations that can for elections of functional interest submit more candidates, each community council can submit only one candidate as a member of the national Council. This means that the electoral body can choose only from among as many candidates as there are communities in the constituency.

     In conclusion, it is important to mention that within the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia the motion for the reform of the electoral system for the National Council has just been initiated.

     At the beginning of the nineties Slovenia introduced a new democratic legal system which represented an important turning point. New state institutions were established as well as new interest organizations, especially those based on the right of assembly and association. However, today the social situation is different. The state institutions have become rooted in the legal system, the importance of interest organizations became clear and evident, the number of communities increased. The National Council, constituted in accordance with the then social circumstances has come to a conclusion that after a decade of successful functioning it would be appropriate to prepare suggestions for the manner of how to regulate the elections to the National Council in accordance with the existing social circumstances. We believe that with the assistance of experts on constitutional law from the Ljubljana Faculty of Law the project will be crowned with success.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me a few more words about the role of national parliaments in the European Union. I highly appreciate that President of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart has organized 5th Meeting of the Association of European Senates at the time when Sixth Intergovernmental Conference is held in Rome. The negotiations among the representatives of the member states include the changes of the basic documents of the European Union. The new Constitutional Treaty is supposed to arrange anew the relationships between national parliaments and the European Union. In the light of abolishing the democratic deficit we welcome every step further in the direction of a better and more direct informing of national parliaments on the matters of the European Union as well as steps towards a stronger participation of national parliaments in the procedure of adoption of basic decisions in the European Union.

     The role of national parliaments on the European Union level is undoubtedly increasing. It is reasonable and correct to assume that also the second chambers take part in the process of decision making on the European Union level. On the one hand, it is important to have control over the work of the government in this field as well as to have the possibility to influence the forming of standpoints of the member states in negotiations on the European Union level and on the other hand the direct role of national parliaments is important in the use of the subsidiarity principle.

     The National Council of the Republic of Slovenia strives for its participation as a second chamber in treating the European Union matters. With this intention the Republic of Slovenia amended its Constitution introducing a new Article 3.a, the so called European article which among other things regulates also the relationship between the Slovenian Parliament and Government and the European Union matters. At present a law is being prepared whose aim is to further analyze this constitutional provision. We advocate the practice of bicameral systems, namely that both chambers cooperate with the government by means of a joint working body or different working bodies competent for this field in the treatment of the European Union matters.

     Keeping this in mind the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia appeals to all members of the Association to enrich this meeting with the conclusions, by which we would acknowledge the great importance of the Constitutional Treaty which is right now being debated in Rome. We would like to emphasize the importance and the role of the protocols of the Constitutional Treaty (namely The Role of National Parliaments in the European Union and the Use of the Proportionality and Subsidiarity Principles) for the national parliaments in the treatment of the European Union matters stressing at the same time the importance of the activities of the two chambers in this field. Treatment of these matters is an important competence of the national parliaments, especially of their second chambers, as in this way we undoubtedly contribute to a greater democratic control in the member states and to a smaller democratic deficit on the European Union level.

     Dear colleagues and friends, these are conclusions of my speech. We want to contribute to the discussion on behalf of Slovenia that has repeatedly learnt of the necessity of the existence of the bicameral system. Slovenia is involved in this discussion. I would like to thank you, distinguished colleagues and dear friends for the opportunity to share this opinion on our common topic.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, President Su¹nik. Your Senate is one of the youngest, there is obviously no older strong historical tradition and in spite of it you have chosen your own, highly original way. It is a proof of how open the space is for the second chambers.

     There are several facts that I have found interesting. Your second chamber is to a significant extent conceived as the representative of interests. It would be interesting to know whether it implies a certain reminiscence of the interest self-government, of the whole system in the former Yugoslavia or whether there is no such an implication.

     It was also interesting when you spoke about the role of the National Council that should consist in neutralizing the influence of political parties. Yes, this difference between the extent of the impact of political parties on the first and second chambers was mentioned by many speakers. However, none of them went that far to use the word "neutralize", although you have subsequently make this statement rather relative by saying that political influences of course exist there.

     I think that this differentiation is one of the most important and it will be presumably necessary to find its adequate extent. Anyway, it was very interesting. Thank you.

     Now only a few technical comments. Let me invite heads of the delegations to the Wallenstein garden to the stairs to Sala terrena, in order to take what we call a family picture. Although it is drizzling outside we shall show you such a way that not a single drop will fall on you.

     We shall wait for all of you. The picture will not be taken until everybody is there. Therefore I would like to ask you to join our protocol staff.

     Then the lunch in the Senators´ restaurant will follow and I would like to ask you to use the time for discussing the proposals of Marshal Pastusiak: First, the proposed date of the next meeting, secondly, the proposal of the topic that, however, may not be interesting for all the senates who are not only the members of the European Union, thirdly, we should consider the possibility to address also the remaining European senates that are so far outside the Association. It would be good to have a quite well discussed opinion after we reconvene.

     I recommend to your attention the newly published book "The Czech Senate: History and Presence" that is prepared for you in the anteroom of the Conference Hall.

     Now I would like to ask heads of the delegations to move to Salla terena.

     Enjoy your meal!

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Ladies and Gentlemen, we shall continue with our afternoon session.

     Now I would like to ask Mr. Dan Mircea Popescu, Vice-President of the Senate of Romania to take the floor.

Mr. Dan Mircea Popescu, Vice-President of the Senate of Romania:

     Mr. President of the Senate of the Czech Republic, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

     I am most pleased to participate in 5th Meeting of the Association of European Senates in this city of a particular beauty.

     The theme of our meeting is extremely interesting and at the same time topical for all European democratic societies. In this regard, the issue of the efficiency of the bicameral parliamentary system has a special relevance for Romania too, a country which has to deal with numerous emergencies, on a political, economic and social level and subsequently on a legislative level, all of them expressing in fact the essential changes the Romanian society is currently undergoing.

     Politically, over the last years, Romania has structured out its functional democracy, which has successfully passed the test of alternative governance. Meanwhile, the civic society has emerged and has ever more strongly asserted itself, thus becoming a necessary and useful partner and a catalyst of public debate. Throughout this period we have built up institutions, made them operational and provided them with the power stemming from their legitimacy and functionality. With the support of the friends and partners of Romania, who are quite numerous and some of them are present in this Hall today, we drafted and passed in 1991 a modern and democratic Constitution, we trained people in order to cope with the new demands of a functional democracy.

     The economic reform, that began in early 90´s in the absence of the market institutions and mechanisms, entailed extremely high and hardly bearable social costs. We needed more than a decade to succeed over the past three years and a half to re-enter the right track of a stable economic growth. As a matter of fact, the process of economic recovery has not reached yet the stage of a growth able to produce additional national wealth.

     Poverty is our main problem in the social sphere, and we are aware that we cannot succeed in alleviating poverty significantly without continued economic reforms, without speeding up the creation of new, more stable, and better paid jobs.

     We are aware that the answers to our economic and social problems need to emerge, first and foremost, from within the country, mainly through a concerted effort by all the accountable political forces, in order to structure the principles and institutions of good governance.

     In spite of all hardships and flaws in the Romanian society, I truly believe that Romania is on the right track and the progress achieved in all fields has started to be perceived. The Romanians have come, now, to understand that democracy is a better and more efficient political system. The Romanian society has grown up and built new grounds for national coherence and social solidarity. It stands ready to assume the new responsibilities stemming from the Romania's future status of a member of NATO and of the European Union.

     Honourable colleagues, faced with the huge challenges of developing a new society in all its component areas - political, institutional, economic, social, administrative, judicial, cultural, moral - the Parliament of Romania has not always been able to cope with these tasks. At an early stage it could not keep the pace owing to some heavy procedures, identical attributions of the two Chambers, time-consuming mediation procedures, extended debates in the committees and in the plenary, as well as owing to the lack of deadlines for drafting the reports of the committees involved. That is why sometimes the Parliament was perceived by the public opinion rather as an obstacle than a partner in the development of the new society. A radical change was needed in the rules of procedure of the Chambers in order to trigger the speeding up of the legislative process. However, it proved to be insufficient.

     For this reason Romania witnessed in the last years an extensive flow of opinion on the need to improve our parliamentary system, to re-design the relations between the two Chambers and differentiate their attributions.

     We have recently concluded the amendment to the Constitution after extended negotiations among parliamentary parties. The proposal of amending the Constitution contributes to the efficiency of the parliamentary activity by differentiating between the attributions and competencies of the two Chambers. The specialising of the two Chambers that means equal attributions but in different topics they pronounce upon - is likely to turn to better account the advantages of a bicameral system in improving the decision-making.

     The need of having the Constitution revised is motivated by the major changes in the social, economic and political life of the country and particularly by the perspective of EU and NATO integration. Meeting of these goals imperatively requires both the setting-up of an appropriate constitutional framework as well as the existence of a corresponding legislation. In concrete terms, I am referring to the procedure and competency of the legislative to legislate the integration process and to the constitutional consequences relating to sovereignty, building a common space of security and justice, to the status of armed forces, property, etc.

     The proposal of revising the Constitution stipulated the principle of separation and equilibrium of powers in the state, the principle of free initiative and competition as a basis of the market economy. It established the role of employers in the Romanian society, it restricted the parliamentary immunity only to the political aspects of the mandate and limited the use of Government emergency ordinances whose number had reached worrying figures over the last years. Changes have been brought for instance to the status of the People's Advocate whose aim is to protect the citizens´ rights. We have established the Constitutional Court as a guarantee of the Constitution's supremacy. By revising the Constitution, the independence of justice was brought to the level of European requirements. It means that our courts will determine cases within the set deadlines. We shall adopt also the principle of fair trial which implies a revision of the rules of procedure and strengthening our judicial system as well as raising the responsibility of judges. Additional new provisions will be introduced in the judicial system, such as the right of minorities to use their mother tongue in justice and administration, the elimination of mandatory military service, permission of foreign citizens to purchase land in Romania, etc.

     The proposal of revising the Constitution will be submitted to a national referendum on 19 October. The adoption of the revised Constitution spurs future positive developments of the Romanian society. We believe that the current changes have brought us closer to the changes taking place at the European level, at the level of the European structures.

     The year 2007 will be the year of Romania's accession to the EU. Given this perspective, we need to consider whether other adjustments to our structures will be also needed, including the Romanian Parliament in order to ensure the coherence and efficiency of our policies.

     The united Europe should rely on extensive co-operation and this can be achieved through strong, responsible and legitimate institutions. Therefore, in conclusion, allow me to welcome once again the organising of this debate which has offered us all the opportunity to share the experience and best practices of our Parliaments. Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. Vice-President. I think we all have appreciated the sober, even critical presentation of the development in Romania. All the more we admire your efforts on this difficult way.

     Part of overcoming the past are also the amendments to the Constitution being prepared. In fact, you are in a way a laboratory example on the imaginary axis, on one pole of which the chambers are maximally different and on the other identical. You were at the end of identical chambers.

     It was interesting as you spoke of lengthy negotiations. On the whole it is quite logical. If there occur differences between such chambers, these differences are random and are more difficult to settle than those which arise from some internal logic of two different chambers. Also this experience of yours belongs to the topic we discuss here and we appreciate that you have addressed it so openly. Thank you again.

     The next speaker will be President of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Mr. Sergej Mironov.

Sergey Mironov, President of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation:

     Dear Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sincerely glad to take part in this very representative forum. It is for the fifth time that the Association convenes and it is for the fifth time when the second chambers of parliaments meet. I would like to thank all those who contributed to the organization and preparation of our meeting the subject of which is highly topical for every country with a bicameral Parliament. This is especially true for the countries with a federal structure.

     At the beginning of my contribution I should like to express on behalf of our delegation appreciation of an excellent organization of this meeting.

     In December 2003 we shall be celebrating 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Ever since its formation it consisted of two chambers. In the public mind, the State Duma and the Federation Council are perceived as the lower and the upper houses of the Federal Assembly, although it has not been officially confirmed.

     The formation of the Russian bicameralism took place during a complex historical period of consolidation of political stability in the nation. For the Federation Council, that period has also become one of a dynamic transformation.

     The three-year old Federal Statute on the new procedure for the forming of the Federation Council, according to which the Senators started working on a permanent professional basis, made it possible for the Federation Council members to concentrate more than before on law-making activities. This allowed us to establish a new form of regular cooperation of the Chamber with the President and the Government, while the mechanisms of this cooperation we have substantially updated. Simultaneously new rules have been introduced of the cooperation between President and Government, including regular meetings. Before that only one-day meetings with members of local councils were organized in Moscow which did not provide time enough to deal fully with the legislative process. We have changed the mechanism of cooperation and currently focus on the legislative activity in the real sense of the word.

     We have also transformed the mechanisms for cooperation between the Federation Council and the State Duma. As a result we no longer have to return everything back to Duma. We have special committees that deal with bills simultaneously with the lower chamber and the upper chamber may either agree with the committees´ proposals or ignore them. This, however, does not mean, that after the third reading the respective act has been adopted. In any case the result of the new cooperation is the fact that by contrast to the previous period when the Federation Council was rejecting every third bill submitted by the State Duma, these cases are now only exceptional. The cooperation of our committees and the lower chamber naturally contributes to a more expeditious adoption of legislation.

     I would like to mention one characteristic quality of our status. Pursuant to the Constitution the deputies of the Duma and every member of the Federation Council have their legislative initiative but, unlike the lower chamber, the Federation Council as an institution has such a right as a whole. We do not apply this right too often, but we know of it and sometimes we also use it. All these initiatives have to be well-thought-out and impeccable in terms of law.

     Today, the Federation Council faces the task of strategic dimensions: namely, to develop into a parliamentary chamber which will exercise the function of quality control of federal statutes based on the experience in law enforcement practices in constituent entities of the Federation, and to contribute to better legislation in the important spheres of legal regulation. The Chamber will also have to appreciably enlarge the field of its own legislative initiative.

     At present, one of the priority objectives of the Federation Council is the attainment of improved coordination in the Chamber's interaction with public authorities of constituent entities of the Federation. We have established the Board of Coordination Between the Federation Council and the Legislative Bodies of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation (in short - the Board of Legislators or the Legislative Board) which already functions with some success. The Board's mission is to secure the unity of legal space in the country and to assure coordination of legislative activities at the federal and regional levels. The Board meets on a quarterly basis. Once it was attended also by President Putin.

     In this way we aspire to achieve to an ever greater extent the implementation of the Federation Council's constitutional status as the Chamber of Regions called upon to play a leading role in the process of translating into reality the principles of federalism proclaimed in the Russia's Constitution.

     Over the ten years of its existence, the Federation Council has tried out three different procedures for the forming of the Chamber. All of them, however, retained one dominating feature - namely, the principle of territorial representation.

     During the period from 1993 till 1995, which the Constitution of the Russian Federation defined as "transitional", members of the Federation Council were elected for a term of two years in accordance with the majority system, and were known as Deputies of the Federation Council.

     From 1995 till 2001 inclusive, chief executive and head of the legislative body (or one of its chambers) of a constituent entity of the Federation became ex officio members of the Federation Council.

     At present, Federation Council Members are appointed by decision of executive and legislative (representative) bodies of public authority of a constituent entity of the Federation for the duration of these bodies´ mandate. In this situation, a Federation Council Member thus appointed may, at any time, be recalled by a similar decision.

     I would not say that these procedural changes in the forming of the Federation Council resulted from insufficiently reasoned decisions. Each of them was a product of its time, a result of a complex political compromise at the stage of renovated Russia's constitutional evolution towards a federal State. With the benefit of hindsight it may be said that each of the aforesaid models obviously possesses both positive sides, and a number of weaknesses. Even today, the issue of an optimal model for the forming of the Federation Council remains open. One of the possible options for the forming of the upper chamber of Russia's Parliament may be a transition to the election of Federation Council members by all of the population of a constituent entity of the Federation. This would in no way duplicate the procedure for election of Deputies of the State Duma, for the intention is to have the Federation Council Members selected from among the candidates nominated by legislative (representative) and executive bodies of public authority of the regions. Besides, parliamentarians in the upper chamber shall represent not just their voters, but their respective constituent entities of the Federation as such.

     Of great importance in this respect is the fact that the forming of the Federation Council is by no means related with the elections of Deputies of the State Duma. The rotation of Federation Council Members occurs with expiry of the terms of office of those bodies of public authority of constituent entities of the Federation which appointed them as their representatives.

     The list of constitutional and legal powers of the Federation Council in the sphere of its exclusive jurisdiction is quite traditional in international practice. These include issues of war and peace, appointment to topmost positions in the judiciary system and the Office of the Prosecutor-General, ensuring lawful order in conditions of the state of emergency and martial law, approval of the borders between constituent entities of the Federation.

     On the whole, these constitutional powers are realized in constitutional partnership with the President in the formulating of national strategies. This means that the Federation Council shares in the President's responsibility for the implementation of the line of policy, including such paramount areas of national life, as guaranteeing State sovereignty and territorial integrity, constitutional and general legality, law and order, stability of federal and interethnic relations, as well as Russia's political and territorial structure.

     The reason why the Federation Council was endowed with the potential for such an intensive participation in the public and political life of the nation, lies in the fact that it represents the civic society in all its variety, whereas it is impossible to secure this kind of representation just through the mechanism of political parties, as reflected in the procedure for election of deputies of the State Duma, because the deputies primarily reflect the political interests of their own constituencies. At the same time, Federation Council members represent the interests of their respective constituent entity of the Federation as a whole.

     I also wish to mention the fact that in, the Rules of Procedure of the Federation Council forbid the creation of any political party factions. These differences in parliamentarians´ status, procedures for forming and powers of the two chambers inevitably determine the difference in arguments underlying the formulation of the chambers´ respective positions.

     A characteristic feature of upper houses of parliaments in the majority of European countries is also the impossibility of their dissolution by decree of the head of State. In this respect, the Federation Council is no exception. According to the Constitution, only the State Duma may be dissolved. Besides, the right of the President of Russia to dissolve the lower chamber has been limited to only two cases, namely after a thrice-repeated rejection by the State Duma of the candidates for the office of the Head of the Government nominated by the President or after the State Duma´s second (within three months) vote of no confidence in the Government.

     Dissolution of the State Duma is related to the fact that the very procedure for election of Deputies of the State Duma initially presupposes their considerable politicisation. The legislator decided, however, that one should not exclude a situation, where an excessive degree of politicisation in the State Duma might jeopardise the stability of the entire nation.

     Therefore, the impossibility of the upper chamber's dissolution and a gradual rotation of Federation Council members dependent on the elections in constituent entities of the Federation, assure the Federation Council´s stability and continuity, which, no doubt, serves to enhance the effectiveness of the functioning of both chambers.

     In September, Russia has entered a nearly six-month long phase of election campaigns: in December 2003 there will be the elections of Deputies of the State Duma, and in March 2004 - those of the President of the Russian Federation. Among the powers of our Council is also setting of the date of the presidential election. This period will be marked with a particular augmentation of the role of the Federation Council, as a body of State authority unencumbered with electoral cycles, placed at the junction of the federal and regional levels of government, and deeply rooted in constituent entities of the Federation.

     In conclusion of this statement, I wish to express my confidence that the results of our deliberations on complex and topical issues related to the efficiency of upper houses of parliaments may effectively influence the status of democracy and social development both in individual countries and in Europe as a whole.

     Mr. President, dear colleagues, let me make a comment that we have here the project of the final declaration, a certain proposal concerning the topic we should deal with during our sixth meeting and I would like to suggest two things. The first one relates to the final declaration. Quite a number of speakers today have expressed the right and logical opinion that the second chambers contribute significantly to the increase of the efficiency of the work, the efficiency of the legislative process and conduce to a considerably higher quality of legislation. Therefore, in my view we should add a fifth paragraph to the final declaration to the effect that the parliamentary structure enables to increase the quality of bills and the efficiency of the legislative process.

     I believe that that these two activities are very logical for the parliamentary chambers and we should add these two comments.

     And yet another comment relating to further discussions about the role of national parliaments in the European Union. On behalf of the Russian Federation we would suggest another formulation, namely "Role of national parliaments in the European integration" rather than "in the European Union". Such formulation seems to us more appropriate as it would allow us to participate more substantially in the discussion. It is in fact only a case of a more proper formulation and so "in the process of the European integration" would be better than "in the European Union". In the former case we would be actually merely outside observers. Naturally, it is up to you to decide but anyway thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. President of the Federation Council. I think that the Federation Council has been undergoing in the recent years the most far-reaching changes of all the second European chambers. We attentively follow these changes and seek their logic, and you, Mr. President, have helped us to understand this logic as in a number of issues you actually come close, in a direct or roundabout way, to the standard of the second European chambers.

     Thank you, President Mironov, for the insight into your current debates as well as the changes you contemplate.

     Now I would like to ask President of the Federal Council of the Federal Republic of Germany Mr. Wolfgang Böhmer to take the floor.

Mr. Wolfgang Böhmer, President of the Federal Council of the Federal Republic of Germany:

     Dear President Pithart, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, as all my predecessors I would like first of all to thank you President Pithart for your kind invitation to Prague and express my congratulations on the marvellous organization of this 5th meeting of our Association.

     I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to meet with you in this group for the second time, after our meeting in Madrid, and exchange experience and opinions with you shortly before the end of my one-year fixed term of office as President of the Bundesrat.

     During my term as President it has been very important for me to maintain and develop the Bundesrat´s international relations and also to shoulder responsibility at the European level. Playing an active part in the Association of European Senates has been and remains a particular priority for me. This offers the Bundesrat a chance to promote the bicameral system on the international level and to enhance both the European identity and an awareness of Europe. For that reason I shall recommend to my successor in this post that he or she continue to vigorously support the aims and work of our Association in this spirit.

     The topic of our conference today is worded as a question: "A different composition of the chambers in bicameral parliaments as a precondition for their efficiency?". As President of the Bundesrat and in the light of my experience of the interaction between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat in Germany, I would like to reply "Yes" to this question.

     Let me briefly explain why.

     The Bundestag and the Bundesrat actually have very little in common in terms of their composition and working methods. Let me first consider the German Bundestag.

     The members of the German Bundestag are directly elected. They are representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders or instructions and responsible only to their conscience. The members of the Bundestag join together as parliamentary groups based on their political affiliation. Through these groups the members are granted particular special rights in parliamentary procedure. The Bundestag is elected for four years. However, the Federal President may, upon the proposal of the Federal Chancellor, dissolve the Bundestag before this term has expired if a motion of the Federal Chancellor for a vote of confidence is not supported by the majority of the Bundestag´s members.

     In contrast, the Bundesrat is the representative body of the federal states; its members are not elected to the Bundesrat but are appointed by the governments of the individual federal states. However, voters in the federal states decide on the composition of the regional parliaments (Landtage) and thus indirectly determine the make-up of the regional governments and who holds a seat and enjoys voting rights in the Bundesrat. In this manner the Bundesrat also enjoys democratic legitimacy. There is no election deadline for the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat is a "permanent body", which is partially renewed each time elections to a regional parliament are held and a new regional government is formed as a consequence. The rhythm of this partial renewal is not in any way coordinated between the federal states, nor is it timed to coincide with elections to the Bundestag. For this reason the Bundesrat may not be dissolved. As each federal state must cast its votes en bloc in the Bundesrat, the members of the Bundesrat - unlike the members of the Bundestag - do not enjoy "a free mandate". Instead they act in the light of a uniform approach prepared together in the regional cabinet and thus represent their federal state. Representatives of political groups in the Bundesrat do not join parliamentary groups (factions) as is the case in the Bundestag. There are merely informal groupings of federal states based on their current political leadership.

     I would like to briefly explain, on the basis of the German model, why having such a different structure in the two chambers is not necessarily an obstacle but on the contrary can definitely enhance the efficiency and quality of the parliamentary work.

     Generally speaking, the very different composition and working methods of the two chambers provide the best possible system of reciprocal checks by each parliamentary body on the other. In a sense the two chambers act as a counterweight to each other. Within this structure both houses are called on to exercise moderation and conciliation, to show mutual comprehension and consideration for each other and to recognize these principles as a political necessity in everything they do.

     There exist various conditions of cooperation. Where an act of the Bundestag intervenes in the competence of individual federal states, the Bundesrat has to agree. If the Bundesrat does not agree, the act cannot take effect. In case of acts dealing only with federal matters and not falling into the competence of individual federal states the Bundesrat has only the right of comment, but this right may be outvoted by the Bundestag. In Germany approximately 60 % of acts of the Bundestag have been approved by the Bundesrat. Naturally there exist also such matters about which we are not in agreement. For this purpose there exists a joint committee of the Bundesrat and Bundestag, that deals with such cases about which agreement has not been reached. Without reaching agreement the respective act cannot take effect.

     Taking a regional component into account in the composition of one of the chambers of a national parliament - as is for example the case of the Bundesrat - offers, at least in our view, an additional advantage.

     Federal states or regions thus have an opportunity to articulate their own interests and to express them within the legislative process. If this were not the case they would have to search for other channels through which to voice their concerns. That would give rise to an increasingly strong regional identity and the emergence of an informal regional level in the political system that might question the acceptance of decisions made by the parliament. Therefore, and this we consider of vital importance, it prevents the emergence of separatist efforts in individual regions.

     The chambers composed on the basis of different principles also express the society's diversity. It means that these chambers can thus represent a broad spectrum of interests that do not find adequate space in differently structured parliamentary representations. The different structure of the two chambers of the national parliament may inter alia conduce to a better quality of legislation and law-making. This has already been mentioned by the speakers before me. Thus, in Germany the administrative competence of the federal states in the Bundesrat is indispensable in many cases to avoid shortcomings in legislation.

     In my view, the differing procedures for electing or appointing members to the two chambers of parliament constitute another advantage. In the Federal Republic of Germany the elections to the regional parliaments (Landtage) which lead to partial changes in the make-up of the Bundesrat at periodic intervals, are not coordinated with elections to the Bundestag. As several studies over the last few years have shown, elections held simultaneously would on the whole lead to identical majorities in the two chambers, reflecting the general political mood at the respective time. That would not necessarily guarantee that the two chambers could engage in effective monitoring of each other or indeed of the government.

     The procedure currently practised in Germany has in the past mainly led to a different balance of power in the two chambers, as is also the case at present. And as the Bundesrat enjoys an absolute veto right for around 60 % of the Federation's bills, the Federal Government and the Bundestag can no longer push through their plans unilaterally under such a constellation. Instead they must reach an agreement and compromise with the majority in the Bundesrat. Although this often makes the work of the two chambers difficult, this procedure also presents an opportunity to ensure that the final outcome represents a broad social consensus. And in my view this is quite an important value in diplomacy. And finally, also the fact that the Bundesrat represents a sort of permanent body which is only partly renewed according to the outcomes of the elections to the regional parliaments provides a guarantee of a certain degree of continuity in the parliamentary practice. Such function of the second chambers is important mainly during the periods in which the other parliamentary chambers must be newly constituted - either after dissolution or after elections. The experience has shown that it always takes some time for a degree of routine in legislative activity to be re-established.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, let me in the conclusion briefly look to the future. In the Federal Republic of Germany we are currently in the throes of a debate on the future of federalism and possible reform of the system. In this context the role and structure of the Bundesrat are also under discussion. Particular emphasis is being laid on splitting the responsibilities of the Federation and the federal states. On the one hand, competences are to be transferred from the Federation back to the federal states, whilst at the same time drastic cuts in the amount of legislation requiring Bundesrat consent are envisages. I think that there is a similar discussion in Austria. However, the differences in the Bundesrat´s and the Bundestag´s compositions are currently not questioned. And there is a general consensus in Germany that this is an advantage.

     The results of the reform of federalism, particularly the strengthening of legislative powers of the federal states and limitation of certain powers of the Bundesrat, will probably newly redefine the actual role of the Bundesrat.

     In summary I would like to say the following: In my view the experience in the Federal Republic of Germany gives us the right to conclude that the system can be made more efficient and the quality of work done in the two chambers can be improved considerably if there are differences in the mode of composition of the representative parliamentary bodies in a bicameral system. At the same time, however, I do not intend to suggest that I am putting forward a generally applicable model for the organization of parliaments in other states. I would have no right to make such a proposal. Discussions within this Association demonstrate again and again that very different models exist when it comes to organizing national parliaments; these parliaments take into account the national particularities and have proved their worth over many years. However, mutual comparison of our systems should encourage us to rethink our own parliamentary systems and devise proposals for improvements where these are needed, which is important for the integration of our states in the unified Europe.

     Let me comment on the words of our colleague from the Russian Federation. Particularly with regard to different functions of our chambers it is certainly important first to tune and prepare the working versions of the declarations and resolutions here and agree them also with the respective bodies at home of which we are mere representatives here. And before we adopt a resolution, the respective issue should be definitely agreed and harmonized so that we may succeed with it at home and apply it. Hasty proposals may make the work even more difficult especially if we are supposed to make a decision immediately.

     In the very conclusion, dear colleagues, I would like to remind you once again of the invitation which I mentioned already in Madrid, namely to 7th meeting of the Association of European Senates in Berlin in 2005 as 6th meeting has already been reserved. The preliminary date of the conference is 8 till 10 September. For the Bundesrat it will be a great honour, esteemed colleagues, to welcome you to Berlin. Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you Mr. President. We were taken as far as September 2005, which means that we all believe in our European future. Your presentation was a very clear, logical documentation of one model; as you say - the model of the Federal Republic of Germany which really involves highly different chambers. At the same time you have given reasons why such a model is suitable precisely for your country and you had no pretensions to making this model generally valid. Such an approach is worth respect and I am sure that you have contributed considerably to our debate.

     Now I would like to ask the President of the Senate of Spain Mr. Juan José Lucas Giménez to take the floor.

Mr. Juan José Lucas Giménez, President of the Senate of Spain:

     Dear Mr. President, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said that literature, and all the more poetry, has always been created on the basis on one's own personal perceptions, adventures, experience. And it is mainly my personal experience I would like to share with you here.

     I am very glad that I may thank President Pithart for all the care and hospitality as well as organization of this event, this meting of ours. It has enriched also my legal and political experience. Personal experience from such meetings is undoubtedly very important. It is the advantage of similar meetings that we have the opportunity to meet in person. Personal contacts allow us to get mutually acquainted with our senates, our institutions.

     A few months ago we met in Madrid. I had the opportunity to get to know better also the Federal Republic of Germany about which we heard in the preceding speech from Mr. Böhmer. I would also like to say that we do not part, it is not a farewell, but goodbye for now with many of you. The French President Poncelet has enriched us by initiating the foundation of this Association. And let us hope we shall soon be meeting also on other occasions.

     Prague is a beautiful and impressive city which evokes memories of many a book I read in my youth. Prague is a synthesis of natural plurality of the European culture and European identity. My task is to present some basic facts about the manner of functioning of the Spanish Senate to you. I would like to share with you some experience and briefly mention some perspectives of this centuries-old institution that I have the honour to chair.

     In the course of its history Spain has always inclined to bicameralism. And this was also anchored in the Constitution of 1978 that entrusted the legislative power to Parliament - Congress and Senate. The Congress consists of 350 representatives elected on the basis of the number of inhabitants in the constituencies of individual provinces, i.e. there are minimally two deputies per each province.

     By contrast, the Senate has the same number, i.e. always four senators for each province, two of them for the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melila, and a various number ranging from three to one for other territories. Thus, there is a total of 208 senators elected in direct elections. Our Senate is a chamber of territorial representation. Therefore about one fifth of the members, i.e. 51, is elected by parliamentary bodies of the autonomies, namely there is always minimally one senator, plus another per each million inhabitants. Thus we come to the total number of 259 senators.

     The Congress and the Senate constitute one integral whole that may also decide on dissolvability.

     The Spanish parliamentary model - and I will speak particularly about the Senate - is subject to highly original criteria. It is a mixed system, I think the same as in Belgium, although we do not have a co-opted senator.

     It is evident that one of our main tasks is the second reading of bills. This is what we deal with or this is our function as practically 90 % of bills have been passed by the Parliament after we have modified them in a way. One can say that this function injects an immense amount of democratic legitimacy into the legislative mission as - similarly as the senators in other countries - we are also elected in free general, direct elections and ballot. Nevertheless, our role consists merely in the second reading of bills.

     Our activity is the basic prerequisite for the democratic stability also because we represent individual nationalities, individual regions. It means that Spain is both a united and plurality state. Spain is a mixture of various nations, cultures and languages which has resulted in a mature political system with a centuries-old tradition that is open and dynamic, allowing discussion that always aims at capturing the truth.

     I believe, that the Senate wants also in future to be a meeting place of individual autonomies that are ever more involved in the general affairs of the whole Spain and in the decision making process. Spain has properly built a deeply decentralized state and the Government is based on the local policies in individual autonomies. Therefore it is obviously the consensus that determines to a high degree the milestones in the sphere of peace, freedom and prosperity throughout the whole period of the existence of this system.

     The nature of the Senate is unquestionable. It aims first of all at using dialogue and harmonization of political positions among individual territories. It is a philosophy that becomes a specific mandate and proves the solidarity among individual nationalities and regions in Spain as it is stipulated by the valid Constitution at the end of Article II.

     Thus the Spanish Senate performs different tasks. It executes dynamically and responsibly the legislative power. However, at the same time its activity is based on a broad perception of its function entrusted to it by citizens, inhabitants. And it aspires to be a place of the active implementation of their justified hopes. It is a highly original political solution. No Constitution expresses it explicitly but it is in fact a democratic solution which may be called "asymmetric bicameralism" as its attributes are partially convergent and partially different.

     It is a very good solution if we take into account that the reality is dynamic rather than static. It is a highly efficient solution. However, it still has a significant space for the improvement of its efficiency. The Senate conduces by its calm and quite manner to the fulfilment of the political life and legislative activity in Spain.

     In order to evaluate properly the contribution of the Senate to the parliamentary life and the life of the whole country we should in my view use such terms as moderation, balance and integration. These are the concepts that are inherent in the basic postulate of the democratic Spain. And this guideline, this postulate is a consensus we have to reach.

     Mr. President, already Aristotle in his "Politics" mentioned that a political whole must be made of heterogeneous elements. However, such a mixture of oppositions has to be in balance and certainly it should not be a fictitious agreement or an arrangement that would be false. It has to be genuine. Democracy is not a system where people, and particularly state representatives, would conceal, hide their beliefs. It has to be an open system striving for freedom and realization, implementation of endeavours of people in Spain. The Constitution was created after 40 years of a totalitarian regime. And this consensus that has been reached is truly open and based on the responsibility on the level of an institution, it identifies with democratic values. In my view, the parliamentary life in Spain and particularly in the Senate fulfils efficiently the tasks entrusted to it by the Constitution.

     In the conclusion, I would like to point out, Mr. President, that dialogue and balance are the basic principles of the functioning of the Spanish Senate and its basic postulates. They are necessary for a continuous strengthening of our constitutional arrangement as political agreements are the price we have to pay for freedoms. Consensus must be always linked with the desire for freedom. Therefore, the senators should never forget the political agreement of 1978. It was an agreement that corresponded to the desire for peace and for the welfare in a social society for all Spanish citizens.

     Our institution has to be further improved. To use the words of Aristotle, people are driven by the hope for a better life, for the good.

     Once more I would like to thank you sincerely, Mr. President, that I have got the opportunity to analyze here the position of the second chamber that has a different legal arrangement, different composition, other responsibilities, is dissolvable or it may be established and abolished in any other way. We all strive to fulfil its activities in the sense of freedom. And I do not want to talk about the future of the European Union but Europe as such so that I can include in it also our friends from Russia. Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Mr. President, I thank you for your committed, philosophically conceived presentation of the Senate on the background of the Spanish experience during the transition from the authoritarian regime to a democratic society.

     We all often think of the media image of our chambers, how infrequently the Senate is understood and that it is not among the most favourite institutions. You have explained to a great extent why it is so. You spoke about a calm and quite manner of the Senate's procedures. You have said that the Spanish Senate prefers moderation, balance, integration. Media often seek radicalism, hubbub and conflict.

     By this I do not want to say that we should once for all accept this image of ours, on the other hand, I am aware that certain qualities of the Senate handicap us to a certain extent before the present often boulevard media. I look forward to reading your contribution again at leisure. Thank you.

     And now I would like to ask Vice-President of the Council of States of the Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation Mr. Fritz Schiesser to take the floor.

Fritz Schiesser, Vice-President of the Council of States of the Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation:

     Dear Mr. President, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let me first thank you Mr. President for your kind invitation to 5th Meeting of the Association of European Senates and for your excellent hospitality. I am tempted to say that it is always worth coming to Prague, particularly when the aim of the trip is such an enlightened gathering.

     It is already the second time today that I have the honour to represent the Swiss Council of States and present to you some of my considerations relating to bicameralism. I will deal mainly with the first question we have been asked and on the basis of a concrete example I will try to show how this thesis on efficiency is manifested in practice.

     We have already heard about the most various systems and I am tempted to say that from the Swiss viewpoint I may add yet another element. Although I do not want to hide that recently the discussion in Switzerland has been focused mainly on how the second chamber should be conceived because mainly in the field of cantonal governments - that would correspond to the regional governments in Germany - there are requirements for the transition from the American to the German system. It means that Switzerland would have to abandon the original American system and adopt the German system of the Federal Council. However, in my view, much water will have flowed under the bridge before this will happen.

     The different composition of the two chambers is, according to Professor of Constitutional Law Jean-Francois Aubert who himself was a member of both the National Council and Council of States, one of the three central prerequisites of a bicameral system. (Another criterion involves the same competencies, and thirdly, the two chambers must hold their meetings separately.)

     Allow me a brief reminiscence of the 155-year history of the Swiss Council of States, its history and perception, which will at the same time give answers to the other questions asked (term of a mandate, etc.)

     The bicameral system in the form of a people's chamber- the National Council representing the Swiss people according to the principle of proportionality - and the Chamber of member states - the Council of States representing "the cantonal people" (Huber), was as you may know taken over in 1848 from the United States of America. This concept met at first with a certain distrust as it came "from abroad" and the politicians of our country have never favoured imported solutions (Aubert). The decision to adopt a bicameral system where by contrast to the USA the two chambers are fully equal, have the same competencies, consult together and make decisions separately and whose representatives vote without instructions from cantons finally turned into a historical compromise adopted without enthusiasm and caused practically in the last minute a rather confused situation.

     Today the equality of the two chambers is indisputable. Although since 1848 the Federal Assembly may make decisions only on the basis of identical resolutions of both chambers, the authority of the Council of States had to undergo major changes since its establishment until the beginning of 20th century, before the actual equality of the two chambers was achieved. At the beginning the Council of States embodied rather a meeting of representatives of the old confederation while the National Council as the progressive "modern" chamber staked its claim to a priority political position - and, consequently, to a priority considering of all important matters. The shadow existence of the then Council of States resulted primarily from the fact that the cantons set mandates only for a short term - as a rule limited to one year - and individual cantons were even taking into account the possibility of discharge of their representatives. Thus "ambitious and active men" preferred "to sit in the National Council", the railway king Albert Escher did not want "to spend a single franc for the election struggle for a rest home (as the second chamber was called in Switzerland). "The Federal Council served as an anteroom for young ambitious men in their future career." (Aubert).

     Today the signs have changed: particularly, since the beginning of 20th century the second chamber has been increasingly asserting itself politically.

     What was the cause of this change? The decisive step towards equality of the two chambers was the transition of an ever increasing number of cantons to the people's elections to the Council of States - always for a fixed mandate for four years without the possibility of discharge - while in 19th century the representatives were predominantly appointed to the Council of States by cantonal governments and parliaments. Today the members of the Council of States are elected - with the exception of one canton (the youngest canton of Jura) - by a majority system which provides them with a higher legitimacy as compared to the members of the National Council elected on the basis of proportionality. And it is namely due to the democratic legitimacy that people value the mandate in the Council of States higher than that in the National Council. The last change from the Council of States to the National Council occurred in 1951 which is more than half a century. By contrast, today no less than ten out of 46 members of the Council of States were members of the National Council before.

     Is a different composition a precondition for the efficiency of the bicameral system? The Zurich teacher of law Johann Caspar Bluntschli writes in his "Theory of the Modern State" in 1875: "It is clear that four eyes can see more and better than two, particularly if they watch the respective object from different angles. As a result a repeated evaluation and examination of bills by two chambers standing on a different basis may be only beneficial." The different manner of election and composition of the two councils allow the Parliament to express and balance the extensive variety of our multilingual small country. This function of "territorial representation within the national Parliament" has gradually replaced in the Council of States the originally contemplated function of embodiment of the sovereignty of cantons.

     Of vital importance for Switzerland is the fact that a different composition of the two chambers help balance or reconcile the opposites arising from practical issues - such as between the cities and the rural areas, German and French, mountainous and industrial regions. Thanks to the federative equality of the cantons represented in the Council of States there exists a possibility to ensure here the majority that is able, so to say, to face the majority of the people represented in the National Council which is the central point also in terms of the protection of minorities.

     Thanks to the different composition of the two councils the same issue is examined in two commissions and clarified in detail from different aspects. This provides a broader range of arguments - debates in commissions and in the plenary session enrich each other.

     Both the National Council and the Council of States correct the resolutions of the other council in order to achieve a political balance in terms of agreement. And it is namely the awareness of a corrective that provides both chambers with the possibility to make sometimes more risky steps. One chamber knows that if it goes too far, the other chamber will ultimately correct it.

     The position of the members of the Council of States independent of political parties brings other, partly individual angles of view. Different optic is further strengthened by the fact that the members of the National Council negotiate rather in faction alliances both in the plenary session and in the commissions, discuss the issues according to their relevance in different categories, have a time limit for presentation, while the members of the Council of States may expand on any subject of the meeting - even repeatedly, they have an unlimited time for presentation and as a result they may argue and negotiate on a more individualized basis. All this has conduced to another debate style and it is the reason why the Council of States is sometimes called "the chamber of reflections". However, we have already heard this also from other countries today.

     Different reflecting of one topic and the enriching and balancing coordination of the two chambers was clearly manifested particularly in the course of discussing the vexed, politically controversial issue of legal regulation of genetic technologies in the non-human field.

     The people's initiative submitted in the autumn of 1993 stirred up quite significantly the political situation in the country. It was the so called initiative aimed at the protection of genes, i.e. at the protection of life and environment against genetic manipulation. The result of the plebiscite was two to one. Traditionally the National Council dealt with this initiative as the first and recommended its rejection. However, at the same time it called on the Government to fill the gaps in the legislation with regard to the non-human genetic technologies.

     The Council of States as the second council joined this procedure thus making the warrant of the Government binding. The initiative was rejected by the people in 1998 in the ratio of 66,7% to 33,3%.

     In the spring of 2000 the Government submitted the respective bill: it required complementation of Act on Environmental Protection and amendment of a number of other federal acts. Strictly respecting the equality of allocation of priorities the first to consider this bill was the Council of States. After a thorough examination its commission came to the conclusion to depart from the governmental concept and draw up its own new act relating to genetic technologies in order to make the legislation relating to genetic technologies in non-human fields more transparent, concise and understandable. After an 18-day session the commission submitted to the plenary session the corresponding proposal.

     The tendency in the Council of States (the first in order) was evident: genetic technologies offer a chance that has to be used meaningfully. The proposals of the commission were enforced by a convenient majority. The bill was finally adopted unanimously.

     Then the ball was in the court of the commission of the National Council. The commission first considered the possibility to return to the governmental concept, however, finally the line of the Council of States was enforced both in the commission and the plenary session. Unlike the Council of States, in the National Council hard fronts were formed between two camps of almost the same size, between the supporters and opponents of genetic technologies, between the more prudent and the more bold, between those whose primary aim is to ensure the protective nature of law and those who wanted to point out the benefit of genetic technologies for Switzerland as the country of research and economy. The Council of States was criticised that by its decision about its own package of law relating to the genetic technologies it created a risk potential. "The more elements the package contains, the greater discontent it may arise in relation to details."

     "The dispute over the faith paralyses the Economic Commission "was the headline of one major daily newspaper that quoted the Chairman of the respective parliamentary commission as follows: "The Commission reflects what is happening in the society. The fronts may be broken maximally between the National Council and the Council of States." While the Council of States advocated quite clearly the act, one third of the members of the National Council voted on principle against it. A whole number of proposals were submitted during the detailed consideration of the act with a very close result and in the general voting the act was passed only by 67 votes to 48 votes - 48 members abstained - which is a result which visibly differs from that in the Council of States.

     The different atmosphere of the debate in the two councils and the following elimination of differences shows the different importance of the topic and approximation of the two chambers. I will try to outline briefly this process on the example of one article.

     The Council of States granted the Swiss nationwide environmental organizations the right to file complaints against granting of the permission to commercialize genetically manipulated organisms. The Economic Commission in the National Council requested extending of this right also to consumers and agricultural organizations. First, this version was adopted in the plenary session - however, it failed after somebody from the participants in the plenary session suggested to cancel this right in the bill. As a result the article was literary deleted from the act and the right to file complaints was entirely rejected.

     Back to the Council of States: it insisted on its initial resolution and re-introduced the article into the act. Subsequently, the National Council approved by 92 votes to 77 votes - relatively closely - the solution of the Council of States, i.e. the right to file complaints limited to environmental organizations.

     These examples should document that the procedure of the elimination of differences in a bicameral system supports finding a compromise and allows also through the intermediary of the second chamber to overrule politically questionable decisions (the right of complaint for associations!).

     Dear Mr. President, let me in the conclusion thank once again for the invitation to this conference and its organization and repeat what the President of Council of States Gian-Reto Plattner expressed already in Madrid, and namely the invitation to organize one of the next conferences of this body in Switzerland. Ladies and Gentlemen, you are cordially welcome to Switzerland.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     The speech of Vice-President of the Council of States Mr. Schiesser rang down the curtain on the speeches of the heads of delegation and I must say that very aptly. It has presented another model of markedly different chambers and thus confirmed the initial thesis, I have addressed to you this morning, that namely the second chambers have the ability to reflect the diversity of the European political experience and diversity of individual European countries. The example you have presented Mr. Vice-President was very clear and highly instructive. Thank you.

     Let me open the discussion. I suggest that you express your opinions on the proposal you have in front of you, the draft of the Final Declaration. I would like to point out that we are not bound by anything to adopt a final declaration, although I would like to remind you, that so far we have always finally succeeded. We have used the results of the preceding debates and the filled in questionnaires and on this basis we take the liberty to submit to you for consideration a text - which in our view is neither too categorical nor content-free. It is a statement rather than evaluation.

     Two marginal comments were made in respect of this proposal. One - made by President Mironov - suggested to add another item, the second - made by President Böhmer - questioned our capacity to formulate or add anything here.

     I would say that in my view we shall either succeed in formulating the draft without voting or we shall close the meeting without a final declaration because to my knowledge we are neither equipped nor prepared for voting.

     Further, there is amendment to the final declaration. You also have it in front of you. I am sure we all shall agree with it, it merely states three changes in the composition of the Association. At the next meeting The House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation will be included as members and, in turn, we shall leave out the already non-existent second Croatian chamber. I am sure there will be no dispute in this respect.

     I open the discussion, which may or may not be focused on the final declaration. Who wishes to speak as the first in the discussion?

Mr. Lamberto Dini, Vice-President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Italy:

     Mr. President, I think it would be desirable, if it is possible, to agree on the text of the declaration in the conclusion of our meeting today and on the basis of our preceding meetings. I also appreciate the efforts when preparing the material which we have in front of us. We have a draft, nevertheless as the representative of the Italian Parliament, I cannot sign such a proposal as it does not reflect adequately all models that exist within the bicameral parliamentary systems in our countries. Therefore in my view the final declaration should reflect more completely the various models. For instance, in Italy we have a specific system of a bicameral parliament which has not been reflected here. So if you agree, I would mark in the draft the changes that I suggest but I don't know if I am supposed to do it now. If you wish so, I think we should take into account the following position.

     Bicameral parliamentary structure enables not only the first item but all four, so in my view the third line should read as follows: "state that the existence of a bicameral parliamentary structure, whilst with different models . ".enables the differentiation." ".is a precondition for a more varied and therefore more complete, more legitimate representation."

     The second item in my view should be item 1, because before we speak about the competence, composition etc., the fact that the bicameral system "is a precondition for a more varied, more legitimate representation of diverse social, ethnic.", should be included in the first item. The second item would then be the current item 1.

     The third item would in my view remain unchanged, but I would have problems with the fourth item which states "legislative and supervisory functions of the parliament in which both chambers can work better on the basis of a division of labour ." This is certainly an opinion of a number of people, but not necessarily the opinion of all, so with your permission I would formulate it as follows: "enables a better execution of classical legislative and supervisory functions of the parliament in which both chambers can work whether they have the same law-making powers and functions or work together on the basis of a division of labour, according to the constitutional system within which they operate ".

     I think that yet another sentence should be included here, because many of us believe that the differentiation of composition and functions of the second chambers is desirable also for the sake of efficiency. Such a formulation I would be able to support because it already reflects also our, Italian situation. We cannot say that it would be quite adequate, nevertheless our system probably proceeds towards the differentiation of composition and functions. Many of us believe that a differentiation of competencies and composition is desirable also from the viewpoint of efficiency. If I submit these proposals and they are adopted, I can accept it.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     You have proved to be an experienced European politician because the changes you suggest do not in my view break the submitted text, we can keep them in mind and put them on paper in a short time.

     You are right that they express the whole scope of the debate today. When I heard you this morning I said to myself that the Italians might have reservations about the draft of the final declaration and I was right. I think we can manage it provided there are not many more such changes.

     Who wishes to speak in the discussion as the next? I would like to ask also those who are willing to agree with Mr. Lamberto Dini. Nobody asks to speak which also means approval.

     Now we have here the proposal of President Mironov. How do you, Mr. President, view your suggestion in the light of the discussion just opened? Do you agree with what Mr. Dini has said? Yes.

     During the break we shall try to formulate the text exactly. Now President Poncelet asks to speak.

Mr. Christian Poncelet, President of the Senate of the French Republic:

     I think that the exchange of the first and second items is not a problem but I submit for consideration whether we could add in the fourth item "enables a better execution.". Such amendment would embrace all potential changes in the functioning of our institutions.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. President. The proposal made by President Mironov is now explicitly stated here. We are able to make also such a change, no problem.

     There are two options: either we shall prepare the whole text, send it to you and you will return it back with your approval or disapproval, or if you think that it can be managed still today, we shall try to submit to you the complete text after the break.

     Do you agree with the second option? Yes, I can see you nod approval. The formulation of changes can be managed.

     As concerns the amendment to the Final Declaration, I suppose nobody has any problems with it. Good.

     The last issue is probably the topic of the next meeting. President Mironov suggests loosening up of the formulation of the topic in such a way that it does not cover only member states of the European Union and rather focuses on the process of integration so that some members of our Association may fully participate in this debate. Would you agree with such a specification?

     Marshal Pastusiak wishes to speak.

Longin Hieronim Pastusiak, Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland:

     Mr. President in my view the proposal of Mr. Mironov is acceptable. Perhaps it need not be the only topic of our 6th meeting but a separate, second topic. I do not see any contradiction between my proposal relating to the role of national parliaments, particularly senates within EU, and national senates and their relations to the European Parliament, while the proposal of Mr. Mironov deals with the topic of European integration. I believe we may accept it, I take it as an extension of this topic, I would consider it as two different independent topics on the agenda of our sixth meeting. I repeat that they may be our two main topics.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you for your forthcoming approach. President Mironov wishes to speak. I am sorry I did not see you.

Mr. Sergey Mironov, President of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation:

     Dear Mr. President, Dear Colleagues, we should discuss the problems of national parliaments within the European Union, which is acceptable for Russia, but as this formulation is broader, we could present our contribution which would deal with broader aspects. All participating countries of our Association and members of the European Union could speak about their problems in the European Union. In my view such a formulation would allow more extensive as well as more specific interpretations.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you. Your constructive contribution relates to the heads of the second chambers because you try to help each other. Indeed, the formulation "European integration" implies the European Union in the process of enlargement, so we may agree on it. Let me ask Mr. Su¹nik, President of the Slovenian second chamber for the last comment.

Mr. Janez Su¹nik, President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia:

     Ladies and Gentlemen, I suggest to add as an amendment to the declaration, as has already been mentioned, a comment on the role and importance of the Constitutional Treaty and on the role of national parliaments in the European Union, on the manner of the application of principles of proportionality and subsidiarity that provide the national parliaments with the power to deal with the European matters and a comment that both chamber should be involved in the discussion about these matters.

     We could formulate it in writing. We shall formulate it and present it to you.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you. The last part of our meeting will deal namely with this issue. I shall try to open this topic and we shall see if in the conclusion we are able to agree on a common position.

     Before the coffee break let me ask you for a favour.

     If you appreciate our hospitality then I would like to ask you to answer the inquiry which has been distributed to you. The purpose of the only question is to find out what is your impression of the Prague meeting and what is in your view its major contribution.

     The answers are intended for the readers of the journal "The Senate" that regularly informs our public about the activities of our parliamentary chamber and the supplement of which we want to devote to the today's meeting.

     Now we shall have a break for coffee which will be served in the Frıdlantskı and Jièínskı lounges.

     We shall meet here again at 4.30 p.m., that is in fifteen minutes.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the last hour of our meeting. During the break which was a bit longer we managed to complete the comments of some of you relating to the Final Declaration, without creating any internal conflict in the text. I hope all of you will be fully satisfied.

     The only problem is that the text exists in English only, but as the changes are only minor I hope that during the last hour we all shall be able to say YES or NO to it. I repeat: all proposals have been accepted without causing any logical conflict within the text.

     As concerns the amendment formulating the topic of the next meeting, after a discussion we had during the break with Mr. Mironov, Mr. Pastusiak and Mr. Poncelet, the following topic is suggested: "The Role of Senates in the European Union and in the process of European Integration". In other words we have reduced the concept of "national parliaments" to senates and in turn we have extended the European Union also to the European integration. I think that also in this respect everybody may be satisfied.

     Are there any other reservations as to the draft of the Final Declaration?

     There is one more proposal made by the President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Su¹nik: "We emphasize the significance and the role of both chambers in the treatment of the matters important for national parliaments in the relation to the European Union as is determined in the draft of the Treaty establishing the Constitution for Europe."

     However, we have to take into account that we refer merely to the draft Constitutional Treaty. And now we shall mention that some of us wish amendments to the Constitutional Treaty. Here I have certain doubts if we may refer to the text which we ourselves want to change.

     President Su¹nik, what do you think of it? Please.

Mr. Janez Su¹nik, President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia:

     It is our position, our proposal. I would appreciate if it is accepted but presumably we shall yet have an open discussion relating to the final draft.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Exactly, Mr. President, let's go back to this issue at the end of the debate. We are running out of time. Let me open this topic.

     It has become a tradition in the very conclusion of the meeting of our Association to pronounce on topical issues. You have agreed that we might touch upon the result of the Convention in the light of the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome that has been opened just now.

     What should be the topics in the discussion? I have no right to limit anybody in this respect. I will only say what is largely discussed in the Czech Republic.

     Our Senate, and perhaps the second chambers in general, appreciate the possibility of a hindsight, additional reflection, unhurried consideration. Without wishing to protract the Intergovernmental Conference, we think that it is not possible to limit its duration by the end of the Italian chairmanship. The only deadline here is 1 May next year. I repeat we do not want to protract the conference but I can see no reason why it could not end for instance in January, if need be.

     In favour of this time reserve I would point out the following argument: The Convention was conceived as a working group of the Intergovernmental Conference that should formulate some more apt and clear definition of the substance of the European Union. At the beginning it was far from certain whether this effort would succeed or fail. In case of failure we would not take it as a tragedy.

     However, the Convention was very diligent and very ambitious and relatively uniform, and thus it managed to submit a text that it rightfully called the Treaty establishing the Constitution for Europe. In fact it managed to do much more than it could have been realistically expected. Of course what I say, I mean as appreciation rather than criticism of the Convention.

     On the other hand, it has to be taken into account that we have in front of us a far more reaching text, than we have probably expected. To insist that nothing or almost nothing in this text can be changed does not correspond to the original realistic task. At least this is the conviction that prevails in the Czech Republic.

     I believe that the second chambers that you represent here have as a rule a sense of hindsight, of the view from another angle, from another perspective. Therefore we as the host country would be interested in your opinions on the following questions: should the Intergovernmental Conference by itself, in advance, already now, limit its duration and refuse to use the available time? Is the importance of the proposal of the Convention compatible with the insistence that only unsubstantial minor things may be changed in it?

     Similarly, I would like to point out that the second chambers should be vigilant in balancing powers which in the interest of the preservation of freedom should not be excessively concentrated. I am not sure whether for instance the proposed possibility of the change of unanimous decision making of the Council to qualified decision making does not excessively strengthen the executive to the detriment of national parliaments. These are here in the role of institutions that are informed but not decision making.

     Then we shall face the process of ratification. We will have to convince the public or the constitutional majority of both chambers that our position, the weight of our votes will not get worse as compared to the Treaty of Nice. This is what we would like to explain at the Intergovernmental Conference and to convince of it also the others. Not all: if I am not mistaken, 15 out of 25 share this opinion of ours. May I ask you if you are of a similar or, on the opposite, of a quite different opinion?

     I open discussion. The first who wishes to speak is Vice-President of the Italian Senate, the experienced European politician Mr. Lamberto Dini. He will be followed by Marshal Pastusiak.

     Mr. Vice-President you may speak from your place.

Mr. Lamberto Dini, Vice-President of the Senate of the Republic of Italy:

     I certainly do not wish to embark upon the content of the draft Constitution which can be always improved by heads of the states, however, the members of the Convention - and I was one of them - believed that what the Convention agreed upon in Brussels was the highest possible point in which it was possible to achieve consensus in the Convention. None of the members of governments was absolutely satisfied with the compromises we made. They all had to adjust their opinions and preferences and each of them had to take into account the opinions of the others. That was maximum where consensus could be achieved. The Convention made every endeavour to submit the text of the Constitutional Treaty for Europe either with various alternatives or options or as a unitary project.

     Now it is of course up to the Intergovernmental Conference to evaluate the text. I think that all member states as well as candidate countries have indicated and agreed that this draft is a sound basis for this Constitutional Treaty. Of course the question is how much time we have at our disposal to finalize this Intergovernmental Conference. I do not think that it could be as long as until the end of the next May. In my view the latest deadline would be February next year, because the Commission in Brussels has indicated that four months will be required to translate this text agreed on by the Intergovernmental Conference into all respective languages. All this has to be done by 1 May and certainly by the date of the elections to the European Parliament scheduled for 13 June. By this time the European Constitution has to be finalized so that citizens know what they are going to vote on and that they vote on the future of Europe on which the states have agreed in this Constitution.

     The Italian chairmanship has a difficult task. It has to ensure that an expeditious step be made towards the agreement on this Constitution. I think that from the tactical viewpoint with regard to the fact that all amendments require unanimous voting, it is impossible to make any single minor change should one single member state be against such a change. There is the requirement of unanimity which means that the Italian chairmanship - at least it has indicated so - will submit proposed amendments, if it is sure that most member states support such proposed amendments. In the opposite case it will not submit them. As a result only those proposed amendments will be submitted and discussed where consensus and unanimity may be reasonably expected. I believe that it is a procedure that has been chosen, that it is reasonable and adequate with regard to the time limits and the time pressure under which any chairing state will operate. Today it is the Italian chairmanship, starting from 1 January they will be replaced by the Irish. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. Vice-President. Your statement sounds reassuring. You speak of a sound basis, it is an apt characteristics of the document. You mentioned February. Of course I am glad that I can take the May deadline back, I did not mean it in this way. I just did not want us to set a purely superficial deadline that would not stem from the internal logic of the whole process of the consideration of the draft. Such a superficial reason would be the end of the year - 31 December. If we say February it is acceptable, it may be even January. Yes, the responsibility of the Italian chairmanship is immense. We are aware of it and at the same time we wish to implement some ideas. We shall keep our fingers crossed for you and wish you success in the diplomatic negotiations.

     Thank you your contribution. Now Mr. Pastusiak will speak. Microphone is at your disposal.

Mr. Longin Hieronim Pastusiak, Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland:

     I would like to say that Poland will participate in the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome with a hope that the Conference shall proceed without greater problems and quickly. Naturally the speed must not be to the detriment of the quality of the Constitutional Treaty. We are of the opinion that most provisions constituting the Constitutional Treaty are good provisions and may contribute to a more efficient, more democratic and more transparent European Union.

     Nevertheless, we also think that at least 10 articles of the Constitutional Treaty are already the subject of certain reservations on the part of the participants of the Roman Conference. These reservations have been communicated both by the EU members and the accessing countries.

     As concerns the Polish Parliament and specifically the Polish Senate, it has played a very active role in the shaping of the Polish position on the whole topic. The two chambers of the Polish Parliament have adopted independently of each other resolutions on the basis of which the Polish delegation should submit at least 4 issues at the Intergovernmental Conference. One of them is the incorporation into the preamble of the reference to Christian-Jewish roots, the next is the issue of chairmanship. We would prefer a group chairmanship of four states for a two-year term. In the third question we share the position of Spain. This issue relates to voting as in our view the consensus that was reached in Nice is something that was achieved with a great difficulty and if there is a change, it would be undoubtedly after a longer time, on the basis of deriving of some conclusions from how the system agreed by the states in Nice, functions. The fourth issue relates to the number of commissioners. In our view each country should have the right to have one full-fledged commissioner with full voting rights.

     Another issue is the topic of the common security and defence policy. We think that any military, defence structure within the European Union that may develop here in future should in no case be a duplication or rival of NATO. We welcome the military pillar in the European Union, nevertheless in our view there should be cooperation with other countries in this field.

     We also quite intensively deal with the issue of small alliances within the European Union as it could actually result in two categories of member states. As a woman cannot be partially pregnant, similarly a country cannot be partially secure. Therefore we think that creation of certain substructures, sub-alliances within the potential future security or military European structures would be an undesirable step.

     In conclusion, let me mention that the issue that has been frequently discussed and that has triggered a hot debate in the Polish Parliament is the issue whether to adopt the Constitutional Treaty by referendum or whether it should be adopted by Parliament. I am personally against referendum as there is always a danger that certain demagogues may get involved and start to persuade people who do not agree with certain provisions of the Constitutional Treaty to vote against.

     Therefore I think it should be the Parliament that should ultimately decide, however, according to the Polish Constitution we need a two third majority in both chambers. It means that we need to get some votes from the opposition. If the Polish delegation fails to achieve any concessions in relation to its requirements at the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome it will be probably difficult to convince the opposition in Poland to support the ratification process, which raises certain concerns on our part. Thank you for your attention.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. President. As concerns your last comment relating to the ratification, the situation in the Czech Republic is absolutely the same.

     President of the Senate of the French Republic, Mr.Christian Poncelet wishes to speak.

Mr. Christian Poncelet, President of the Senate of the French Republic:

     Yes, Mr. President. The Intergovernmental Conference started in Rome on 4th October, this is for sure, however, nobody at present can know when it will end. And that is why I have told very kindly to my Italian friends that their schedule to finalize the whole discussion by the end of the year is highly optimistic, namely with regard to the results of the negotiations of heads of the states of 4th October.

     With regard to the fact that this topic is extremely broad and with regard to the fact that some member states experience great difficulties, as we have heard, in the adoption of this draft of the Constitution it is of utmost importance to take enough time to prepare this project well. To reckon with 15th or 20th February as the date of closing of the Conference is an acceptable perspective, namely from the viewpoint of the fact that the new countries will join the EU on 1 May. In this respect it would be realistic, there is no hurry.

     As concerns the changes we should be satisfied with marginal changes, as this Constitution that was prepared very carefully by 105 members of the Convention was the subject of a long dialogue before this consensus was achieved. I have a feeling that it is very important to prevent upsetting the fragile and subtle balance; there is a risk that we may destroy this whole construction that we have carefully built. In fact we would open the Pandora's box.

     I realize that as concerns the role of national parliaments, the draft Constitution could be further improved. Of course our initial ambitions went much farther at the beginning, but here we have a minimum which unquestionably means a progress as compared to the present situation because national parliaments will continue to participate in the control of the application of the principles of subsidiarity. It is very important as it will make be possible to point in time to all problems and to apply to the European Court of Justice. This Constitution is a human effort and its upsetting could result in an immense risk with regard to the fact that it concerns the European integration.

     Therefore I insist again, that we should not make any greater amendments to the draft of the Constitution as it may produce a certain misunderstanding in the given countries, in the given nations and it could block the European integration.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Thank you, Mr. President. President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Belgium, Mr. De Decker wishes to speak now.

Mr. Armand De Decker, President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Belgium:

     Thank you, Mr. President. I thing that the topic we have come to now is of utmost importance, we all shall feel it as soon as we start to discuss it. I would like to draw your attention to one fact which in my view is absolutely essential.

     For the first time in the history of the European integration the European Union has a project of the Constitution that has not been negotiated exclusively by diplomats, but by politicians and members of our parliaments, members of our governments and representatives of the civic society under the chairmanship of Mr. Giscard d´Estaing. One hundred and five members of the Convention have produced a coherent text. Of course this text does not correspond with all hopes of each individual state. The opposite would be a big surprise or even a miracle. However this text today exists and has been negotiated by our colleagues.

     In order to reach a solution and close the Intergovernmental Conference, I would like to point out once more this aspect to Mr. Pastusiak and it was mentioned also by Mr. Dini, it is necessary that all member states and governments of member states express a unanimous position at the Intergovernmental Conference.

     Of course I regret that the Europeans did not have courage enough not to define their roots in this Constitution. I do not think that it would be proper to claim that these roots are only Christian-Jewish, as there were also Greek-Roman roots and they were also based on the Enlightenment century of philosophers. I also regret that the idea of Mr. Giscard d´Estaing to create a Congress of Nations of Europe did not succeed, because the following topics which we shall discuss in the building of the political project of Europe, and we the Belgians strictly insist on it, are the issues relating to the sovereignty of states, i.e. justice, internal security, foreign policy on one hand, and the security and defence policy, on the other. And we cannot make, any political progress in these two fields, unless members of the parliaments of our states meet somewhere, at a convention where they may exchange their opinions. Therefore I also regret that the proposal of the Congress was not adopted in the draft of the Convention.

     As you may know, Belgium is federalist in its project of Europe. As concerns the way the project is taken by Convention, we support Council to the detriment of the Commission. And we are sorry to do so, nevertheless despite the three basic comments I would plead the adoption of the result of the Convention because if we are going to upset the achieved balance we shall be responsible for a huge failure.

     You know well, that in Belgium we would prefer to deepen the European institutions before enlargement, as we care about the political project, and that is why these words of mine are of paramount importance from the viewpoint of the political line we apply.

     Before I close my speech, I would like to say to my Polish colleagues that I do not understand much their reserve as concerns the European security and defence policy as it already exists in the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties and is part of the European acquis. And if we support this security it does not mean that we shall weaken the Atlantic cooperation. For us it is an essential issue that should appear at the Intergovernmental Conference and some positive moments are taken by the Convention.

     These were a few comments I wanted to make before I have to leave you unfortunately.

Mr. Petr Pithart, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

     Yes, we know Mr. President that you have to leave, but thank you for addressing us at least in this way. Maybe now we really have clear shapes of Scylla and Charybdis we have to sail through. On the one hand, as pointed out again by Mr. De Decker, there is the fragile balance, the necessary unanimity of all participants in the Intergovernmental Conference, on the other hand there is the risk of failure of the process of ratification which we and, as we heard also the Polish, perceive as a realistic danger. And so it is not our primary aim to enforce, upset anything at any cost, our concern is not to be afraid of the process of ratification in our countries.

     Ladies and gentlemen, who else wishes to speak? Nobody? I believe we have mentioned the main issues we wanted and are aware of the risks we face.

     Now perhaps the last proposal which is not new. I have already mentioned the proposal of President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Su¹nik who submitted his text to you. We in the chair think that it could be solved by including the following words after the text of the Final Declaration that we have already agreed by approving silence: "The heads of delegations from member, accessing and candidate countries of the European Union emphasize." The text would be introduced in this way because it does not concern all participants but only heads of the delegations of the senates of the candidate or accessing countries, it does not concern our colleagues from Switzerland, Bosnia - Herzegovina or Russia.

     President Su¹nik, would you agree with such an amendment following the text of the Final Declaration? Thank you, Mr. President agrees.

     By this last YES we have closed our meeting. I have a feeling of inner satisfaction. We have learnt a lot, indeed. We are pleased that you have appreciated both the topic we have chosen and the organization and we would like to thank you for coming to Prague. Please give our best regards to your colleagues in the senates. We look forward to meeting again in Warsaw, Mr. Marshal.

     Good-bye and good night!


A written contribution of Mr. Hans Ager, President of the Federal Council of the Republic of Austria on "The Role of National Parliaments in the Future European Constitution"

     If we discuss today - three days after the beginning of the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome on 4th October - at this forum the role of national parliaments in the future European Constitution, let me state that the adoption of the Constitutional Treaty will mean for Europe the finalization of another phase in the process of the European integration. I believe that expansion and deepening of this process by a new Constitution is an important milestone in the European history.

     The Constitution attributes to the national parliaments as the supporters of democratic legitimacy within the European Union a central importance in the future architecture of Europe. The issue of the position of national parliaments or their role in the future architecture of Europe is therefore also a substantial part of the content-oriented discussion. A deeper involvement of national parliaments in the European course of events is an indication of coming closer to citizens and erasing of the so often discussed democratic deficit and the deficit of legitimacy characterized inter alia by "deparliamentization". It means that national parliaments have lost due to the ongoing integration their competencies in the field of law making, however these competencies have not been in the same scope transferred to the European Parliament. While in the past this democratic deficit was tackled by expanding the competencies of the European Parliament, the current strengthening of national parliaments is perceived as a suitable way to its elimination. Therefore the future role of the national parliaments in Europe represents also a decisive point in the explaining and discussion about the future of the European Union.

     I welcome that the Protocol on National Parliaments and Protocol on Subsidiarity actually strengthen in the Constitutional Treaty the rights of the cooperation of national parliaments and the European Parliament. The cooperation should enable a better flow of information, a timely supply of information for national parliaments and cooperation of the committees of the European Parliament with the corresponding committees in the national parliaments. This may improve in a decisive way the quality of legislation, but it will conduce also to a more efficient control of national governments by their parliaments.

     As the essential problem in connection with an efficient cooperation of national parliaments in the legitimacy of the European dealings consists in the election of their representatives on principle for the performance of national rather than European functions, the common European interest cannot be created unless the institutions are established that will become the basis for cross-border communication.

     Therefore I welcome the efforts at the intensification of interparliamentary cooperation and at its putting on a pragmatic basis which supports the idea to recognize the complementary role of the national parliaments and the European Parliament that may be efficiently exercised only within mutual information exchange and joint discussion on the current content of policy. What I consider remarkable is also the introduction of the early warning system which provides the parliaments of individual states with the possibility to present in time in the legislative process their position on the compatibility of a bill with the principle of subsidiarity on the basis of ex ante consideration, without obstructing or delaying this process.

     As President of the federative second chamber I particularly welcome that each chamber will have the right to express its opinion and both chambers may apply to the European Court of Justice if their competencies have been affected.

     Any form of information exchange between parliaments I consider as a suitable possibility to verify the ability of national parliaments to handle the European matters, improve them and thus deepen the contact with citizens. For Europe lives on trust, acceptation and support of its citizens. Europe should not be viewed as anonymous and confused. In this respect, in the light of the new European Constitution, all the involved have a major task to mobilize people and make them sensitive to the European issues. Let us avail ourselves of this chance.

Editor's note:

     Minutes of the Meeting have been based on the emended stenographic minutes of the whole proceedings of 7th October 2003, and on the written presentation of the speeches of heads of delegations that deal in great detail with the main topic of the Meeting. Stenographic record remains unaffected only where the written reports were missing or where they do not correspond with the oral presentation. Stenographic record is naturally the exclusive source in recording of the discussion on the course and objectives of the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome. We believe that this is the optimal way how to furnish the readership with maximum information without distorting the meaning of individual presentations.
     The Collection has been issued in the Czech, English and French versions.

Jan Kysela
On behalf of the Secretariat of 5th Meeting of the Association of European Senates

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