The Grand Committee
The Grand Committee has two kinds of tasks. First, it deals with the formulation of national policy associated with membership of the European Union, with the exception of foreign and security policy, which falls within the remit of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In addition, the Grand Committee deliberates the Bills that are referred to it after their first reading at a plenary session.
Competence of the Committee
The Grand Committee is a special organ of Parliament with constitutionally enforced powers to ensure Parliament's participation in the formulation of Finnish policy regarding EU legislative proposals. Its competence covers the Community pillar, the justice and home affairs pillar, and general institutional and budgetary matters in the Union.
The Grand Committee is responsible for the parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislative proposals and it expresses the view of the Parliament on such matters. The Government is required to communicate to the Grand Committee all 'U Matters', which are EU proposals that fall within the competence of the Parliament according to the Constitution, as soon as possible to enable early scrutiny and parliamentary input. They are also forwarded to the specialised committee(s) within whose remit the matter lies. As the general scrutinizing body of the Parliament on matters relating to the EU, the Grand Committee has the facility to require specialised committees to report on issues within the field of their remit.
Ministers are required to appear before the Grand Committee -normally on Fridays - prior to meetings of the Council of the European Union. The Prime Minister has to inform the Committee of the agenda of the European Council and inter-governmental conferences of the European Union. The Grand Committee has the right to receive information and documentation from the Government regarding EU matters if it requests it, or if the Government itself deems it necessary.
On the basis of the report of the competent specialised committee and the information provided by the Government, the Grand Committee can provide an opinion which is politically though not legally binding upon the Government for negotiations in the EU. The Government must, if necessary, delay the negotiations in the Council of the European Union until the Committee has carried out its scrutiny.
Following negotiations in the Council of the European Union the relevant minister is required to report to the Grand Committee. This also applies to the Prime Minister concerning European Council meetings and inter-governmental conferences in the EU.
The Grand Committee may also require information regarding EU matters outside Parliament's competence, namely 'E Matters'. This can be in the form of documentation or hearings with relevant ministers. The Government can also choose to offer such information on matters it regards as worthy of parliamentary attention. 'E Matters' offer the opportunity for consultation between the Government and the Grand Committee.
Grand Committee meetings are generally held every Wednesday and Friday. These meetings are usually held in camera. The documents considered by the Grand Committee, as well as the minutes of a meeting, normally become accessible to the public after the meeting.
Public information is also provided through the publication of the preliminary agenda of Grand Committee meetings and press releases after every meeting. This information is available free on the Parliament's Internet pages.
A reasonable request from the Government that a certain matter remain confidential may lead the Grand Committee to decide to withhold the corresponding documents and minutes from public access.
MembershipThe Grand Committee has 25 members and 13 deputy members. The membership of the Grand Committee is appointed in proportion to the parliamentary representation of the political parties. In addition, the Member of Parliament representing the Åland Islands constituency is always entitled to participate in meetings of the Grand Committee. Deputy members are entitled to participate in debates of the Grand Committee even if the corresponding titular members are present at the meeting.
The political and institutional representativity of the Grand Committee is enhanced by the fact that many political group leaders and chairmen of the specialised committees are also members of the Grand Committee. This is not a statutory requirement but rather reflects the importance of the Grand Committee.
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