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15th Apr 2024

MEPs turn down modernising reform

  • The parliament is struggling to make itself more popular, relevant and effective (Photo: EUobserver)

MEPs have poured cold water on one of the first concrete proposals by a special advisory body tackling internal reform of the European Parliament.

In a vote on next year's plenary sessions on Wednesday (11 July), parliamentarians rejected introducing eight extra plenary debates. The proposal was seen as a way of boosting the parliament's response to current events.

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These "micro-sessions" were supposed to be held in Brussels on Wednesday mornings - during the regular European Commission meetings, with either the EU commission or presidency countries sending representatives to discuss the hot topics of the day with MEPs.

The suggestion had already been given the green light by the leaders of the different political groups but was later challenged by several backbenchers from the centre-right EPP-ED party who eventually secured the rejection of the proposed reform.

Liberal leader Graham Watson strongly criticised their move to block what he referred to as "a key modernisation measure."

He suggested that in order to be taken seriously, the parliament "cannot continue to debate and vote on issues which are two or three weeks old" and must check on the commission "more regularly and consistently."

Hitting out at his political opponents, he added that the EPP-ED, as the biggest parliamentary group, "is not able to make this House fit for purpose."

But the centre-right group's spokesman countered that his group had made the move for practical reasons, as some MEPs were concerned that an extra political session would disrupt the work of committees.

He noted that during the proposed current affairs debates - which may not attract that many participants - all other meetings would have to be halted. Some MEPs are convinced that a close to empty plenary room would be a cause for embarrassment rather than projecting a modernist image.

Instead, the MEPs suggested ad hoc gatherings convened by political group leaders should be used for topical debates.

Bad start for reform team

More frequent plenary debates were among the top priorities on the list of new ideas being considered by the special taskforce, with the aim of drafting parliamentary reforms which would make the House more political, effective and popular.

The working group represents all eight political groups including three pro-reform leaders - liberal chief Graham Watson, Green co-leader Monica Frassoni and the Independence/Democracy group co-chairman Jens-Peter Bonde.

The taskforce is expected to table all proposals that would influence the parliament's 2008 budget by September and present all the other changes by the end of June 2008 at the latest.

The blueprint will then have to be approved by the relevant parliamentary bodies - depending on which of them the proposed changes concern.

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