The Committees and the EU

The consideration of EU matters takes place in committees. Parliament's views on EU matters are generally expressed by the Grand Committee. With regard to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, however, this task is performed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Grand Committee

The Grand Committee serves as Parliament's European affairs committee. Its most important task is to ensure that Parliament has a proper say in EU decision-making and that parliamentary oversight is effective in this respect. Nowadays the Grand Committee rarely participates in the handling of purely domestic legislation.

The Grand Committee decides Parliament's position after studying an EU proposal, the government memorandum on the matter and the statement issued by the special committee to which the matter has been referred. The position taken by the Grand Committee is politically binding on the Government. If the Government has not been able to act in accordance with the Grand Committee's position because of changes in circumstances, for example, it must immediately inform the Grand Committee of the reasons for its actions. Matters remain pending in the Grand Committee until the EU has made its final decision.

Before every meeting of the Council of the European Union the minister representing Finland must explain important matters on the agenda to the Grand Committee and outline the position that will be taken on these matters. Council meetings are attended by the minister who is responsible for the relevant policy area. The Grand Committee may also ask for further information on the preparation of matters in the European Union.

The Foreign Affairs Committee

Matters concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy are considered by the Foreign Affairs Committee. One special feature of the CFSP is that decision-making requires unanimity among the member states. The Foreign Affairs Committee has the same right to receive information and to speak for Parliament with regard to the Common Foreign and Security Policy as the Grand Committee has in other EU matters.

The Foreign Affairs Committee considers EU matters within its competence and hears ministers in the same way as the Grand Committee and then decides on Parliament's position. The Foreign Affairs Committee prepares decisions that concern the approval and entry into force of amendments to the EU's Treaties. It also considers government reports and statements that concern matters within its remit.

The special committees and EU matters

The special committees play a significant role in considering EU matters, which is a distinctive feature of the Finnish system. Their task is to follow developments in their own policy area.

To obtain information the special committees hold hearings, to which they may invite a representative of the relevant ministry, outside experts and spokespersons for interest groups. The special committees issue statements to the Grand Committee outlining their views.

The special committees have an unlimited right to receive information from the Government or a ministry on EU matters under discussion in their policy area.

As a rule each special committee considers matters that fall within the scope of a corresponding ministry. The number of committee statements on EU matters varies considerably from year to year.