Fundur forseta þjóðþinga Evrópuráðsríkja stóð yfir í Strassborg dagana 22.-23. maí 2008. Umræðuefni síðari fundardaginn var m.a. hvernig þjóðþingin geta unnið að framgangi lýðræðis. Sturla Böðvarsson, forseti Alþingis, tók þátt í umræðum og gerði m.a. að umfjöllunarefni sínu samskipti löggjafarvalds og framkvæmdarvalds.
|Forsetar þjóðþinga Evrópuráðsríkja (smellið á mynd fyrir stærri útgáfu)|
Í ávarpi sínu fjallaði forseti Alþingis um hið mikilvæga eftirlitshlutverk þjóðþinga og að kjörnir fulltrúar þess hefðu lýðræðislegt umboð og skyldu til að veita framkvæmdarvaldinu aðhald. Lagði forseti Alþingis sérstaka áherslu á hlutverk stjórnarandstöðunnar og að starfsaðstæður og starfskjör þingmanna yrðu að vera viðunandi til að styrkja þjóðþingin og mikilvæg hlutverk þeirra.
Hér að neðan má lesa ávarp Sturlu Böðvarssonar, forseta Alþingis, á fundi forseta þjóðþinga Evrópuráðsríkja í Strassborg (óstytt útgáfa á ensku):
Madame President, dear colleagues!
The themes chosen for this conference are all of great importance. I am especially interested in this last sub-theme of the conference and would therefore like to share with you my reflections and visions on how we in Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, may contribute to promoting these core values domestically.
We in Iceland are proud of the long parliamentary tradition, dating back to 930 when Althingi was first established. The element of democracy was much present in the ancient Althingi, despite being different from what we are used to in today’s world. I would like to focus on the role of national parliaments in promoting the value of democracy in present times.
It is sometimes claimed that the executive has the overhand in executive-parliament relations. This is perhaps an overstatement in Iceland, but I am convinced that our parliaments must remain strong to be able to exert the right and obligation to supervise the executive. We parliamentarians have a clear democratic mandate and we must respect our duty to be the safeguards of electors and public interest; to be the safeguards of democracy.
One of the more vital elements in strengthening parliaments, is for MPs to have decent terms and a stimulating working environment. MPs must be financially independent to be able to perform their important work optimally. Otherwise Parliamentarians have difficulties focusing on their important task and are more easily exposed to special interests.
It is my opinion that the salaries of MPs in our Parliaments are not always in accordance with the important responsibilities that go with the job. In Iceland, many MPs have to accept a considerable wage decrease when leaving behind their professional carriers for a parliamentary career. It is important they receive salaries above the average and I will make every effort I can to change this for the better.
Having a good working environment is also important. Since I was elected he President of Althingi last spring, important changes have taken place. We have hired more professional staff to Althingi, in order to strengthen the Parliament as a whole, making it even more capable to supervise the executive and evaluate the demands of special interest. An important change, for example, has been made to the organization of the plenum meetings, making discussions more focused and disciplined.
The role of the opposition in parliamentary democracies is of great importance. I have therefore personally stressed the importance of assisting and strengthening the opposition in Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament. Where the government holds a “grand” majority, like in Iceland, it is of “grand” importance to support the opposition.
I have in my work focused on strengthening the democratic functioning of Althingi. The next big step in that direction could be to make a wholesale revision of the tools which the Parliament has to supervise the executive.
Madame President, dear colleagues!
I have only touched briefly upon two important elements enabling our Parliaments to promote the value of democracy. I would finally like to repeat how pleased I was to see this important theme on the agenda and thank you for interesting speeches and discussions today and yesterday.