Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Parliament restricts European political groups

News @ European Parliament. The so called house of democracy has delivered another blow to democracy. From 2009 it will be much more difficult to create a political group at the European Parliament. From then on, it will be necessary to have 25 members representing a minimum of seven countries. Several members would be denied the democratic right to integrate a group of their choice being forced to sit as non-attached members or to take part in a group which might not fully share the same convictions and views.

Richard Corbett MEP recently proposed a draft report on amendment of Rule 29 of the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure concerning the formation of political groups. The Labour MEP proposed to increase the number of MEPs necessary to form a political group which is presently set at twenty (representing 2.5 per cent of the total number of MEPs) to thirty (representing 4 per cent of the total number of MEPs in a Parliament of 750 MEPs). The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee voted on the report on 27 May and by a majority of just one, Corbett’s proposal was rejected. All groups had voted against the idea of increasing the threshold with the exception of the EPP-ED and the PES.

Notwithstanding this rejection, Jo Leinen, the President of the Committee decided that the committee members should vote on the remaining amendments. An amendment was approved allowing a political group to continue to exist if it follows below the required threshold until the next constitutive sitting. The amended report was adopted but without the Corbett proposal to increase the threshold. In a show of protest against the vote on the threshold of political groups, ALDE, UEN, Greens, GUE and IND-DEM coordinators wrote a letter to the President of the European Parliament. They believed that the vote on the amendments was an “abuse of procedure” as it took place whilst the MEPs had already rejected the bulk of the report. Consequently, they have asked Pöttering for the report to be sent back to the committee. However, the text was brought to the plenary in the July session. Amendments to the European Parliament Rules of Procedure must be adopted by a majority of the component Members of Parliament.

A compromise was reached between most of the political groups which sets the threshold at 25 MEPs from seven countries. On 9 July the European Parliament voted to increase the threshold to create a political group. Presently, to form a political group, 20 members representing at least one fifth of the Member States (6 countries) is needed. The European Parliament has agreed to change its rules of procedure to increase the threshold to 25 MEPs (3.3 per cent of total membership), representing at least one quarter of the Member States (7 Member States). Such a move was adopted with 481 votes in favour, 203 against and 26 abstentions. Obviously, the EPP and the PES, the Parliament’s largest political groups, fully supported the increase of the threshold. The Greens, GUE and UEN groups have decided to vote in favour of the compromise as it was not as detrimental as Corbett’s proposal. The ALDE group voted against the compromise as well as the Ind-Dem which has 22 members.

An amendment was also approved in which if a group falls below the required threshold, the President of the European Parliament may allow the group to continue to exist until the end of the term if it still represents a fifth of Member States and it has been established for more than a year. The new rules will come into force when the European Parliament starts its next term after the June 2009 European elections. It seems that such amendments to the European Parliament’s rules of procedure were almost designed to target eurosceptic groups. The survival of the Independence/Democracy Group is at threat at the next European elections as it presently has 22 members. Moreover, the Europe of the Nations (UEN) group has 44 members but they represent 6 Member States therefore it might fail to meet the member state threshold in the next election. The Movement for European Reform which is presently supported by the Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the British Conservative Party and the Bulgarian Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) must definitely find more support as presently a political group is composed of MEPs elected from at least six Member States and from 2009, it would be required, under the threshold, to have a quarter – which means seven Member States.

-- Sign up for FREE to both Margarida Vasconcelos’ regular ‘Through the EU Labyrinth’ and John Laughland's 'Intelligence Digest' to find out what’s really happening in Europe --

No comments: