Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Committee on Foreign Affairs was established in the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1920. The Committee was among the most important committees when the international relations of the newly created state were being formed. The Committee operated within the Chamber of Deputies until 1938. After World War II, it was re-established within the Interim National Assembly in November 1945.
During the existence of the Czechoslovak federation, foreign policy was under the competence of the federal authorities. After the election of 1992, the Committee on Foreign Affairs was established at the first session of the Czech National Council at the instigation of a group of Deputies. After the dissolution of the Federation (as of 1 January 1993), the Committee became a committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament.
The agenda of the Committee on Foreign Affairs is dependent on the country’s foreign policy. In spite of that, certain topics have been shown to dominate the Committee’s agenda. At the time of the establishment of the Committee in the former Czech National Council, such a topic was forming the independent international relations of the Czech Republic. After the election of 1992, the Committee’s main agenda consisted in monitoring the process of dissolution of the Federation and establishing contractual relations between the Czech and Slovak Republics. In the 2nd Electoral Term of the Chamber of Deputies, the Committee dealt primarily with the issue of the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO and discussed the Czech-German Declaration. In the 3rd Electoral Term, the main topic of the Committee’s agenda was the country’s accession to the European Union. In the 4th Electoral Term, the Committee focused on the Czech Republic’s activities within the EU and NATO and dealt with the issue of economic diplomacy.
Discussing Bills and International Treaties
The Committee on Foreign Affairs has a bare minimum of legislative activities, discussing only the bills with a foreign element. Its main activity is in discussing the approval of international treaties. It is the guarantor of all international treaties regardless of their subject matter.
The Committee also discusses the relevant chapters of the bill on the state budget and the final state budgetary account.
Monitoring the Government, European Agenda
Historically, the country’s international relations and foreign policy have come under the competence of the executive power. In most countries (the Czech Republic being no exception), there is no constitutional or any other legislative regulation governing the Parliament’s competencies in the area of foreign policy. However, in a parliamentary democracy, foreign policy is a part of the Parliament’s agenda when monitoring the Government’s activities. This role is fulfilled primarily by the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The growing agenda of the Committee, connected with the accession of the Czech Republic to the EU, has led to the establishment of a specific procedure for monitoring the Government’s activities within the framework of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The method of discussing the CFSP reflects a special decision-making procedure on the level of EU bodies, where no time framework is defined for their activity. The Committee therefore continuously monitors the individual topics of EU foreign policy.
The Committee maintains contacts with partner committees in Europe and the world and represents the parliamentary dimension of the Czech Republic’s foreign policy.
The Committee decides by an absolute majority of the members present. The Committee’s meetings are essentially open to the public, but it may be proposed that a meeting be declared closed to the public, thus excluding the public and media. Committee meetings are convened and conducted by the Chairperson, who is obliged to convene a meeting upon the decision of the Chamber of Deputies, or upon a request of at least two-fifths of all the members of the Committee, and must do so within 15 days from such a decision or request. Pursuant to the Committee’s resolution, the Chairperson of the Committee is entitled to convene an extraordinary Committee meeting for urgent foreign policy reasons. The meeting’s agenda is proposed by the Chairperson and approved by the Committee. If a member requests that an additional item be added to the agenda, it must be approved by three-fifths of all the members of the Committee.