20th Mar 2019

National MPs show varied interest in EU parliament event

  • MEPs will host their colleagues from national parliaments this week (Photo: European Parliament)

European citizens will have more than a hundred extra representatives this week as members of national parliaments visit the European Parliament in Brussels. However, not every European country is equally represented at the so-called “interparliamentary” event.

Parliamentarians from 26 EU member states and three non-EU European countries are due to arrive in Brussels on Monday evening (2 February) for what is called the European Parliamentary Week.

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During the event - Tuesday and Wednesday - members of national parliaments will discuss the economy, budget and social affairs with MEPs.

With the EU institutions increasingly taking decisions on economic policy away from the national capitals, the so-called democratic deficit increases.

The sessions are meant to "enhance the democratic dimension of the EU decision-making process and to strengthen cooperation between national Parliaments and the European Parliament" in the context of the European semester, an EU guidance and monitoring of national economic policies.

The national parliaments decide themselves who they send to Brussels. An analysis of the list of participants by this website showed that the representation varies between member states.

On average, member states send four parliamentarians, but there are some remarkable differences.

Belgium sends the most MPs (11) this year, but for the Belgian deputies the European Parliament building in Brussels is only a 15-minute walk from their national parliament building.

Two of the EU's largest member states, Germany and France, send respectively 10 and nine representatives, but country size is not a steady predictor.

Italy sends two senators, while it has 945 national deputies in total. Luxembourg on the other hand sends five deputies out of 60.

From the United Kingdom only two members of the House of Lords have been announced to make the trip, both members of the centre-left Labour party. At the same event a year ago, two of the four UK deputies were Tories.

That makes the British parliament the only one that does not send a parliamentarian of a party in government, in addition to the Greek and Maltese parliaments, which both don't send any member.

According to a spokesperson of the Greek permanent representation in Brussels, the reason for the absence of Greek MPs is that the Hellenic parliament hasn't had the chance yet to elect a speaker and form parliamentary committees.

Greece had national elections just over a week ago.

From the Netherlands, whose parliament resides only a two-hour drive from the European Parliament, only two MPs will attend. A year ago, the Dutch delegation counted seven.

One of those no longer attending is Arnold Merkies, a member of the Dutch Socialist Party, who on his previous visit was “a bit disappointed”.

“It was not really a debate, but more a collection of statements”, Merkies told this website.

“I was surprised that especially the MEPs were somewhat long-winded, especially since they were the hosts.”

“The commissioners told their story and immediately left. There was no opportunity to ask them questions.”

The far-left MP suggests the event should be more specific. He found the forum “too massive” to find parliamentarians from other countries to co-operate with.

The European Parliamentary Week begins on Tuesday (3 February) at 9am local time with plenary speeches.

The respective presidents of the parliament and commission, Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker, each will hold a speech.

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