Tuesday

3rd May 2016

New rules to make it harder for MEPs to form political groups

  • Deputies in the European Parliament will now have to meet a tougher threshold before being able to form a political grouping. (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament on Wednesday (9 July) voted in favour of raising the number of deputies required to form a political group in the chamber, but critics say the move is a blow to democracy as it will reduce political diversity in the EU assembly.

Largely supported by the two biggest groups in the parliament - the centre-right European People's Party and the Socialists - the new rules (approved by 481 votes in favour to 203 votes against) mean that 25 MEPs from a minimum of seven member states will be needed to form a political group.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

At the moment, the threshold is 20 MEPs from a minimum of six member states.

The rules will be put into place in the next legislative sitting, which will occur after the June 2009 European elections.

Defending his text, Socialist MEP Richard Corbett pointed out that the parliament has "one of the lowest thresholds that exist for allowing the constitution of a political group".

"Just 2.5 percent of our membership can create a political group," he noted, pointing to the extra funds needed when a deputy is a member of a group rather than an independent.

Being part of a political group guarantees members a certain length of speaking time in plenary, but also a monthly staff allowance of up to €17,000.

However, the new rules, which were narrowly voted down in the constitutional affairs committee last month ahead of being approved by the larger plenary of the parliament today, have attracted strong criticism from smaller groups.

The third biggest political group in the parliament, the Liberals, opposed the move, calling it "detrimental" to parliamentary democracy and efficiency.

If implemented now, it would directly affect both the eurosceptic Independence/Democracy Group (which has 22 MEPs) and the rightist Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) group, which fails to meet the member state threshold.

UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff said that only "limited" lessons could be learnt from national parliaments from where the report draws most of its comparative statistics.

He argued that the EU assembly should be a place where "post-national democratic politics takes shape" and that at this "delicate phase" of European integration "all sorts of minority opinion" should be able to form a group.

Supporters of the report, however, argue that the new rules will make it harder for the far-right to form a political group.

Last year, a disparate gathering of far right MEPs, including anti-immigrant, hard-line nationalist as well as Holocaust-denying deputies, managed to haul themselves together into a group.

It collapsed, however, a few months later after its members started insulting each other, but many deputies found it an affront that the group was able to form at all.

No more silly, irrelevant or offensive questions

Deputies also voted to change the assembly's rule in another way.

On Tuesday, MEPs agreed that to modify the rules so that deputies can no longer put irrelevant or personal questions to the European Commission.

Long-winded questions as well as those containing offensive language will also no longer make it beyond the parliament's walls.

This year, deputies have put round 2000 questions to the commission, although the vast majority are said not to be considered time-wasting queries.

Some MEPs have complained that filter system – the last word rests with the European Parliament's president – is undemocratic. Its supporters say it cuts down on wasted time and resources.

News in Brief

  1. Pro-Putin bikers refused entry by Poland, Lithuania
  2. Nato gives details of new Baltic force
  3. German state gets historic Green-CDU coalition
  4. Chinese police to patrol Italian streets
  5. Delays as Brussels airport reopens terminal
  6. MEPs urge extra sanctions on Russian officials
  7. Poland's right-wing leader wants constitutional overhaul
  8. Don't silence media, Council of Europe tells countries

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Music CouncilRegister Now for the 6th European Forum on Music in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016
  2. Belgrade Security ForumJoin Our Team for the 6th Belgrade Security Forum. Apply Now! Deadline May 20
  3. European Roundtable of IndustrialistsCompanies Make Progress on Number of Women in Leadership Roles
  4. Counter BalanceParliament Gets Tough on Control EU Bank's Funds
  5. ICRCSyria: Aleppo on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster
  6. CESIWorld Day For Health and Safety at Work: Public Sector Workers in The Focus
  7. EFABasque Peace Process-Arnaldo Otegi Visits the European Parliament
  8. EscardioChina Pays Price of Western Lifestyle With Soaring Childhood Obesity
  9. Centre Maurits CoppetiersThe Existence of a State is a Question of Fact, Not a Question of Law
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at The Event: Prospects For EU Enlargement After 2019
  11. ICRCSyria: Aid for Over 120,000 People Arrives in Besieged Town Near Homs
  12. Counter BalanceHighway to Hell: European Money Fuelling Controversial Infrastructure Projects