Wednesday

11th Dec 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Zahradil 'conflict of interest' probe may flounder

The European Parliament's internal body, designed to sanction MEPs for conflicts of interests, has failed to deliver any meaningful verdicts. Some are hoping a future proposal for a new independent ethics body will help hold MEPs accountable.

Exclusive

Zahradil 'conflict of interest' over EU-Vietnam trade deal

Right-wing Czech MEP Jan Zahradil is leading European Parliament negotiations on a trade deal with Vietnam. As rapporteur, he is supposed to be neutral but has neglected to declare his involvement in a group with ties to the Communist party.

Von der Leyen warns on EU budget cuts

The new EU Commission president will tell EU leaders next week that they need to put money behind their pledges for border protection, defence policy and fighting climate change.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs protest against PM Babis over EU subsidy 'fraud'
  2. EU disbursed €2.7bn for Turkey refugees
  3. UK ports set to host EU border checks for Northern Ireland
  4. EU puts tech giants in crosshairs
  5. Faroe Islands under pressure to chose Huawei
  6. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  7. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  8. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us