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Carlo Tovo

Given the mixed nature of the new-generation EU free trade agreements (EU FTAs), national parliaments have increasingly been involved in the democratic oversight of the common commercial policy. This chapter will investigate their role both in the negotiation and in the conclusion of EU FTAs, focusing in particular on two controversial issues: the degree of access of national parliaments to negotiating documents and their rights and duties in the provisional application and ratification of these agreements. The chapter highlights both the risk for the unity, effectiveness and coherence of the EU commercial policy and the potential democratic imbalances inherent in the national ratification processes of EU FTAs. It is maintained that provisional application only provides a partial solution, which depends crucially on involving national parliaments on a structural basis in the negotiations of EU FTAs, as early as the definition of the objectives and the mandate of such negotiations by the Council, both at EU and national level. The European Parliament could serve as an example of how it is possible, building upon limited supervisory powers, to enhance the democratic legitimacy of an executive’s external action.