Wednesday

1st Mar 2017

MEPs boost transparency in committee votes

  • Casini: 'Voters have a right to know how their elected representatives have voted' (Photo: European Parliament)

A large majority of MEPs on Wednesday (26 February) in Strasbourg agreed to increase transparency in the committee level decision-making process.

With more and more critical votes on draft laws taken at the committee stage, the change means final legislative votes in committees will be electronically recorded and published for public scrutiny in a so-called roll call vote.

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Most final committee votes are currently taken by a show of hands. But a roll call vote means people can now hold an MEP accountable for his or her voting behaviour at all stages of the law-making process.

“The rather lengthy distance between the European Parliament and the citizen should not be shrouded in opacity,” said UK liberal Andrew Duff in a statement.

“While all votes in committee are open to the press and public, it is very difficult for the voting behaviour of every individual MEP to be monitored,” he added.

Italian centre-right MEP Carlo Casini, who chairs the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, was the lead negotiator on the file.

Casini in his report justified the change because “voters have a right to know how their elected representatives have voted.”

His report met initial resistance by the parliament’s centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D groups.

Both groups delayed placing the item on the assembly agenda twice.

They wanted further consultations and argued that MEPs must understand the full implications of the roll call because it narrows the room for manoeuvre and flexibility in negotiations.

Exposing voting track records is said to make it more difficult for deputies to engage in legislative swaps, a process where an MEP or a group of MEPs make concessions to the opposing camp on a proposal in exchange for something else.

Pro-transparency groups say the procedural change is needed because the real decision-making on legislation in the parliament is often made at the committee levels.

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