Sunday

21st Apr 2019

No prolonged mandate for Barroso, MEPs warn

  • Fewer MEPs, fewer commissioners, argues a Spanish deputy (Photo: European Parliament)

If the Lisbon Treaty is not in place by June 2009, member states should keep their word on slimming down the European Commission, centre-right MEPs have argued, warning that parliamentarians would be reluctant to support a prolonged mandate for the current team of commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"Time is against us," Spanish conservative deputy Inigo Mendez de Vigo from the constitutional affairs committee in the European Parliament told journalists on Thursday (9 October), following this week's visit by the Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Ireland was originally supposed to indicate what it wants to do about the Lisbon Treaty, a reform of the 27-strong Union that was rejected in June by Irish voters, to the heads of states and governments set to gather for a two-day summit on 15 October.

But Mr Martin confirmed to MEPs on Monday (6 October) that Dublin needs time for "comprehensive research" and only by December does the country "expect to be able... to outline the necessary steps to achieve our objective of continued full engagement in the Union."

Mr de Vigo thinks, however, that it would be too late for the new institutional set-up to come into effect before the European elections in June, meaning that the pre-vote campaign would be again focused on the treaty rather than on other issues of concern for EU citizens.

Moreover, it would mean that the bloc's assembly would be elected under the current Nice Treaty with a different distribution of seats - 736 instead of 751 MEPs with fewer seats for 12 member states - and less power than envisaged by the reform document.

If that is the case, argued Mr de Vigo, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP-ED), the biggest parliamentary group in the 785-member legislature, would press for the rules on the composition of the EU executive also to be respected.

Under the Nice Treaty, "the European Council [heads of states and governments] will have to take a unanimous decision to reduce the number of commissioners. Are they ready to do that?" the Spanish deputy asked rhetorically.

"The EPP will be against any prolongation of the mandate of the current commission. We will not accept having the Nice Treaty on the number of seats in the parliament, and the European Council not taking a decision on the reduction of the number of commissioners that is also in the Nice Treaty."

Mr de Vigo hinted that some other political groups may follow suit in requiring this condition be maintained.

But according to one commission official, it is widely expected in the EU executive that the national capitals will agree to keep 27 commissioners, one each per member state.

UK worries

Also present at the media briefing, a German conservative member of the constitutional committee, Elmar Brok, pointed out that the Lisbon Treaty is the last chance for Europe's major institutional reform to be adopted this decade.

"I believe that in the next ten years in Britain, no ratification is possible. Not anything with major changes. If we don't get this, we get nothing," Mr Brok declared.

He referred to the strongly Eurosceptic positions of many in the UK's opposition Conservative party, which is expected to win the next elections in the country, due in September 2010 at the latest.

"If the Lisbon treaty is not ratified and on the table at the point we take office, then, of course, we would hold a referendum," the Conservative shadow foreign secretary William Hague was quoted as saying by British media last month.

The reform treaty has so far been ratified by 23 member states, with German President Horst Kohler's spokesperson announcing on Wednesday (9 October) that he would give a final nod to the document after a "thorough analysis" with legal experts.

Apart from final and unproblematic formalities expected in Poland and Sweden, the Czech Republic is the only country still waiting for the response of its constitutional court on whether the Lisbon Treaty is in line with the Czech charter.

The two Conservative MEPs believe that once all other member states have ratified the reform treaty, it would be easier for Irish politicians to put it forward to the country's voters for another vote, possibly with clarifications on sensitive issues such as Ireland's neutrality or sovereignty over tax or family law decisions.

EU symbols

Separately, with the fate of the Lisbon Treaty still unclear, the European Parliament on Wednesday decided to officially recognise EU flag, anthem and motto as the symbols of the bloc's plenary.

The flag, a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, will be now displayed in all parliament's meeting rooms and at official events.

The anthem, based on the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, will be performed at the opening ceremony following each European election and at formal sittings.

The motto, "United in diversity", will be reproduced on all Parliament's official documents, and the celebration of Europe Day on 9 May will be also formally recognised, says a report approved by 503 votes in favour 96 against and 15 abstentions.

The symbols were first officially referred to by the European Constitution, a document rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005 and replaced by the Lisbon Treaty, which does not mention them.

Lobby register transparency talks collapse

Efforts to set up a better transparency register for lobbyists have collapsed after two years of talks. The impasse revolves around the European Commission's insistence that the register also become mandatory for the European Parliament and Council.

Exclusive

EU bodies dodge questions on secret VW loan report

The European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have refused to answer detailed questions about the demand from the European Ombudsman to publish an Olaf report on a €400m EIB loan Volkswagen Group (VW) received through deception.

Exclusive

EIB 'maladministration' verdict over VW fraud report

EUobserver should have been granted access to a fraud investigation into a €400m EU loan to Volkswagen Group (VW), and recommendations on how to avoid future misuse, the European Ombudsman has concluded.

MEPs excluded from deciding new EU labour agency HQ

A ministerial vote will determine the seat of the new European Labour Authority - leaving MEPs excluded from the selection process. Infamously, the new HQs for the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority were only decided by drawing lots.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us