Kristin Archick Specialist in European Affairs
Vincent Morelli Section Research Manager
United States and the European Union (EU) share an extensive, dynamic, and for
many a mutually beneficial political and economic partnership. A growing
element of that relationship is the role that the U.S. Congress and the
European Parliament (EP)—a key EU institution—have begun to play,
including in areas ranging from foreign and economic policy to regulatory
reform. Proponents of establishing closer relations between the U.S.
Congress and the EP point to the Parliament’s growing influence as a
result of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which increased the relative power of the
EP within the EU, and in some cases, with significant implications for U.S.
interests. Consequently, some officials and experts on both sides of the
Atlantic have asked whether it would be beneficial for Congress and the EP
to strengthen institutional ties further and to explore the possibility of
coordinating efforts to develop more complementary approaches to policies in areas
of mutual interest.
The Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue (TLD), the formal exchange between
Congress (actually the House of Representatives) and the European
Parliament, was launched in 1999, but semiannual meetings between Congress
and the EP date back to 1972. The TLD’s visibility, although still
relatively low, increased following the 2007 decision to name it as an advisor
to the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), which seeks to “advance the
work of reducing or eliminating non-tariff barriers to transatlantic
commerce and trade.”
In response to the TLD’s new TEC-related responsibilities, some Members of
Congress suggested that there was a need for more contact between and
cooperation with the EP, and raised questions with respect to how this
might best be accomplished. For those Members and outside advocates of
closer relations, questions surfaced about whether the TLD itself was organized
in a way that would facilitate such relations, how the standing committees
in both institutions might interact, and what role, if any, for the U.S.
Senate. Since 2007, regular contacts between Congress and the Parliament,
including at the committee level, have fluctuated in frequency. However, many observers
note that the EP has been far out in front of Congress in pursuit of a stronger relationship
mostly through the many EP delegations traveling to Washington to meet their counterparts.
In 2010, a key event in the evolution of Congress-Parliament relations took
place when the Parliament opened a liaison office (EPLO) in Washington.
The EPLO was charged with keeping the EP better informed of legislative
activity in Congress and vice-versa.
While there appears to be no opposition within Congress to increasing contacts
with the European Parliament, some point out that with the exception of a
few Members with previous experience in the TLD, Congress as a whole has
been seen at best as ambivalent to such efforts and has not demonstrated
as much enthusiasm as the EP about forging closer relations. This observation
had been noted by the EP itself when at the beginning of the 112th Congress the appointment of both the new chair and vice chair
of the USTLD took almost six months and took place just before the annual
This report provides background on the Congress–EP relationship and the role of
the TLD. It also explores potential future options that could be
considered during the 113th Congress
should an effort to strengthen ties between the two bodies gain momentum.
For additional information, see CRS Report RS21998, The European
Parliament, by Kristin Archick.
Date of Report: January 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 32 Order Number: R41552 Price: $29.95
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