Thursday

13th May 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us