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I. – THE 2006 REFORM OF THE ORGANIZATION OF DEPARTMENTS
Until 2005, the departments dealing with legislative activities, on the one hand, and assessment and monitoring on the other, were organized in a classical “vertical” system which can be found in many Parliaments:
- The Committees Department carried out the secretariat of the six standing committees and the commissions of inquiry;
- The Studies and Documentation Department carried out various specific studies mainly at the request of individual M.P.s;
- The Research and Assessment Department was in charge of the secretariat of the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment, of drafting memoranda and of collecting the Assembly’s documentation in the scientific and technological field;
- The International Relations Department also carried out studies on subjects linked to international relations and comparative law (outside the European Union). It set up and coordinated links with foreign Parliaments (mainly through the friendship groups) and carried out the inter-parliamentary cooperation policy drawn up by the political authorities of the National Assembly. It also dealt with the attendance of National Assembly delegations at various international organizations;
- The European Affairs Department was responsible for the secretariat of the European Union Delegation at the National Assembly, for following bilateral relations between the National Assembly and European states as well as for the documentation concerning these states. It also carried out studies on European countries and their legislation. This department is the only one whose general brief and organization has remained almost unchanged because, as it brings together the secretariat of a body of the Assembly (the European Union Delegation which became the Committee in Charge of European Affairs with the constitutional reform of July 23, 2008) and a unit in charge of studies, it already possessed an organizational structure very similar to that decided upon for the future departments.
Generally speaking, the fact that these different departments tended to work in isolation placed a brake on the essential development of monitoring and assessment activities. It also represented an obstacle to the best use of the means made available in the parliamentary budget. This separation made the appointment of advisers to commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions more difficult and advocated against any combining of existing resources.
The new organization of the departments is based on a redistribution of the briefs of each of the five former departments between six departments corresponding to the six great “horizontal operational poles”; legal affairs, cultural and social questions, economics and scientific assessment, public finances, European affairs, international affairs and defence.
So as to provide a clear identity to the activities of monitoring and assessment, the principle of the organization of these departments in units with their own staff was established. In fact the directors have the responsibility of organizing the distribution of tasks between units so as to harmonize the workload of the civil servants of the entire department. Thus each of the new departments has, at least, one committee or commission secretariat and a unit in charge of monitoring and legislative studies. These departments carry out the secretariat of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions set up by the Conference of Presidents within their relevant field.
II. – PRESENTATION OF THE “OPERATIONAL POLES”
On the basis of the principles set out above, six “operational poles” were established on January 1, 2006.
- The Legal Affairs Department is in charge of following legislative work, monitoring and studies in electoral and constitutional law matters, in issues concerning the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly and in the fields of judicial organization, administrative, criminal and civil law, civil liberties, the civil service and territorial units. It includes two units:
• The secretariat of the Constitutional Law, Legislation and General Administration of the Republic Committee;
• The Studies and Monitoring Unit for Legal Affairs which is, in particular, in charge of the secretariat of the Commission for Women’s Rights.
- The Cultural and Social Questions Department is in charge of following legislative work, monitoring and studies in matters concerning education, research, youth, sports, artistic and cultural activities, communication, intellectual property, work and labour relations, vocational training, health and solidarity, elderly people, handicapped people, family issues, social security and social integration and equal opportunities. It has three units:
• The secretariat of the Social Affairs Committee;
• The secretariat of the Cultural Affairs and Education Committee;
• The Monitoring and Studies Unit for Cultural and Social Affairs which is, among other things, in charge of the secretariat of the Assessment and Monitoring Mission for the Laws Governing Social Security (MECSS).
- The Economic and Scientific Assessment Department is in charge of following legislative work, monitoring and studies in matters concerning agriculture, fishing, energy, industry, applied research and innovation, consumption, internal and external trade, post and electronic communications, tourism, town planning and housing, regional development, construction, transport, equipment, infrastructures, public works, the environment and hunting. It has four units:
• The secretariat of the Economic Affairs Committee;
• The secretariat of the Sustainable Development, Spatial and Regional Planning Committee;
• The secretariat of the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment;
• The Monitoring and Studies Unit for Economic Affairs.
- The Public Finance Department is in charge of following legislative work, monitoring and studies in matters concerning state and local finances, finance laws, budgetary implementation and taxation. It has three units:
• The secretariat of the Finance, General Economy and Budgetary Monitoring Committee;
• The secretariat of the General Rapporteur of the Budget;
• The Monitoring and Studies Unit for Budgetary, Fiscal and Financial Affairs which is, in particular, in charge of the secretariat of the Assessment and Monitoring Mission (MEC).
- The European Affairs Department has two units:
• The secretariat of the Committee in Charge of European Affairs;
• The European Studies and Comparative Law Unit.
It is also in charge of the secretariat of the National Assembly delegations to the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union.
- The International Affairs and Defence Department is in charge of following legislative work, monitoring and studies in matters concerning international relations and the general organization of defence. In addition, it implements and coordinates the relations and cooperation programmes between the National Assembly and the Parliaments of other countries outside the European Union. It has five units:
• The secretariat of the Foreign Affairs Committee;
• The secretariat of the National Defence and Armed Forces Committee;
• The International Parliamentary Assemblies Unit;
• The Interparliamentary Cooperation Unit;
• The Parliamentary Relations and International Studies Unit.