On 5 July 2016, the European Commission announced that the ratification of the CETA agreement between Canada and the EU will involve ratification by national parliaments. The German newspaper TAZ notes that:

Deshalb soll das Abkommen nun so schnell wie möglich ratifiziert werden – durch das Europaparlament und 42 nationale und regionale Parlamente, Großbritannien eingeschlossen.

which means

Therefore, the Agreement shall now be ratified as fast as possible — by the European Parliament and [by] 42 national and regional parliaments, including the United Kingdom.

I would expect that it should be ratified by the European Parliament and 28 national parliaments. What is the role of regional parliaments in CETA ratification? Which ones are those regional parliaments? Can they block it?

There appear to be 74 regional parliaments in the EU (pre-Brexit), such as at CALRE or REGLEG. I suppose the ones who can veto treaties are a subset of those. One of them is — apparently — Wallonia. Which ones are the others?

Note this seems to be 38 post-Brexit, (42 - Westminster - Holyrood - Cardiff Bay - Stormont = 38).

  • Some info may be at the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies, but this unites 74 regional legislative parliaments whereas only 14 of those can veto CETA, TTIP, or Brexit. Also at REGLEG.
    – gerrit
    May 18, 2017 at 15:37
  • The Guardian news paper had slightly a different count of 28 national and ten regional governments in an article from October 2016. theguardian.com/business/2016/oct/14/…
    – origimbo
    May 18, 2017 at 15:40
  • @origimbo That would be the post-Brexit figure: 28+10=38.
    – gerrit
    May 18, 2017 at 15:45
  • But post Brexit there will only be 27 national governments...
    – origimbo
    May 18, 2017 at 15:46
  • @origimbo True. Perhaps the journalist got confused, learned there were 10 regional parliaments that can block Brexit, and assumed it would be the same for CETA. UK regional parliaments cannot block Brexit, but I suppose they could have blocked CETA if they had chosen to do so?
    – gerrit
    May 18, 2017 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


The ratification involves, as you've cited correctly, only national parliaments. Indeed are there only 27/28 member states (post/pre-Brexit respectively), but the total number of parliaments that have to ratify depends on the constitutions of the member states. The following 13 states have a bicameral system,

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom

Therefore, there are 28+13=41 national parliaments pre-Brexit and 39 post-Brexit involved in ratifying such treaties. (Note that certain member states can invoke a referendum for the ratification process). However, not all of these parliaments are required for the ratification (as pointed out in the comment below).

The following document has an overview of all the specifics of the ratification process, and it shows that second chambers of Belgium, Ireland, and Slovenia do not need to ratify the treaty, which would be 36/38 national parliaments in total. In the pre-Brexit case, the House of Lords can just delay the process of ratification (see comments here and here below as well as notes related to UK in the aforementioned document).

However, Belgium is the exception here on all levels: The Belgian constitution transfers certain legislative powers down to regional bodies and even assemblies, the situation here is quite intricate.

The same document summarizes the Belgian institutions involved in the ratification:

Parliaments of the federated entities:

  • Flemish,

  • Walloon,

  • Brussels-Capital,

  • German-speaking Community,

  • Walloon-Brussels Federation,

  • French-speaking Community in Brussels,

  • Joint Assembly of the Common Community Commission in Brussels

The Belgian constitution is dividing Belgium into three regions (Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels-Capital) and three communities (French, Flemish, and German-speaking), where the Flanders region and the Flemish community are unified into one parliament.

Each of the five components of the federal system (Flemish Community, French Community, German-speaking Community, Walloon Region and Brussels-Capital Region) have their own, directly elected unicameral council or parliament. They vote decrees (or ordinances in Brussels), that have the same value and are on the same juridical level as the federal laws. ¹

The Walloon-Brussel Federation is essentially the representation of the French community; the parliament is formed by members of the Walloon parliament and French-speaking members in the parliament of Brussels-Capital ².

The French Community Commission in Brussels needs also to be asked, since

Unlike the Flemish Community Commission, the French Community Commission has been granted legislative power in some areas (such as tourism and healthcare) by the French Community. [ibid.]

And finally the Joint Assembly of the Common Community Commission in Brussels has also legislative powers and is responsible for community matters that do not fall into the competencies of either community in Brussels.

Which of these bodies can veto other agreements like TTIP or the Brexit agreement depends on the content of the treaties. I suppose the Brexit agreement is not touching upon bilingual issues in Brussels, so probably the last body mentioned in the list will not be deciding about the Brexit agreement. The same is probably true for some of the other bodies mentioned in the list. But this is just speculation as long as there is no actual treaty text.

It is probably useful to cite the rest of the Belgium section in the aforementioned document:


  • The Kamer/Chambre has to approve all mixed agreements. The Senate/Sénat no longer has ratification powers. ­
  • The parliaments of the federated entities in Belgium must also approve mixed agreements if the content of the agreement touches upon their competences.

  • Referendums are not provided for according to Belgian law.


The draft/proposal to approve a mixed agreement is sent to the House of representatives from which point it is dealt with by the competent committee. Following discussions and a vote in this committee, the text is then subjected to a vote in a plenary session determined by a simple majority. Where agreements directly affect federated competences, approval from the competent parliaments of the federated entities is required. There are potentially 7 parliaments concerned. The required parliamentary approval in Belgium is concluded only when all competent parliaments of the federated entities and the Kamer/Chambre have given their consent. There is no scope for a referendum on mixed agreements.

  • There are issues with counting all bicameral systems as 2 houses as well. For example in the UK the Parliament Acts means that only the Commons needs to actually pass legislation, the Lords can only delay it. Based on the following article, the Guardian is getting to 38 with 28 parliaments, 5 Belgian regional/community parliaments, and 5 upper houses, including Germany, Italy and 5 unnamed. theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/21/…
    – origimbo
    May 19, 2017 at 10:29
  • Also does the Belgian constitution transfer power to the regions, or are they assumed to hold it? The difference between federal and unitary states possibly forms at least part of the answer gerrit wanted.
    – origimbo
    May 19, 2017 at 10:37
  • @origimbo You're right about the UK. But in your article it reads: "In practice, this means the deal may have to be ratified by at least 38 national and regional parliaments, including the EU’s 28 national parliaments, at least five regional and linguistic parliaments in Belgium and at least five upper houses, including those of Germany and Italy." I think "at least" is the relevant part. For some cases the situation is not 100% clear as it depends on the content of the treaty whether a second chamber has to ratify it, too. Apparently Slovenia and Ireland do not need to.
    – jjdb
    May 19, 2017 at 10:49
  • 2
    On terminology: in a bicameral legislature, the two houses or chambers together form the parliament; so it's incorrect to refer to just one of the houses as a parliament. Hence instead of "41 national parliaments", you could write "41 national legislative chambers". May 19, 2017 at 13:24
  • 1
    Having said that, it's unusual to count legislative chambers in this context, as the relationship between two chambers in one parliament varies by country, and it is the ratification by a parliament that counts, regardless of how that is achieved and how its constituent parts are involved. May 19, 2017 at 13:29

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