Friday

28th Apr 2017

MEP transparency vote delayed 'until further notice'

  • 'The democratic legitimacy of the European Union is being called into question' (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The two largest political groups in the European Parliament are currently blocking a rule that would increase voting transparency at the committee level.

Both the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D groups on Thursday (6 February) delayed placing on the plenary agenda a procedural change that would require final legislative votes in committees to be electronically recorded and published for public scrutiny.

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.

“It makes no sense for parliamentarians to refuse to disclose how they vote from their electorate – unless they have something to hide,” said Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt in a statement.

The issue was already discussed in January and was originally on this week’s Strasbourg plenary agenda but then got postponed to the plenary in the second half of February.

The two groups on Thursday at a closed-door meeting at the parliament’s conference of presidents, which organises plenary agenda items, managed to a secure a further delay by asking that the matter be discussed once more on 11 February.

The new delay makes the scheduled vote for the second half of February uncertain.

Current final committee votes is either taken by a show of hands, or, more rarely, by a so-called roll call vote where the MEPs use an electronic device that registers their names and how they voted.

MEPs’ votes in committee are only published if specifically requested and with the support of 25 percent of the committee members.

The new rule would make roll call votes mandatory.

A spokesperson at the centre-left group told this website in an email the European Parliament needs room for manoeuvre and flexibility in negotiations, which often evolve between committee and plenary.

“Roll-call votes in committee might be seen as fixing the position of members in the negotiations,” he said.

Pro-transparency groups point out the real decision-making on legislation in the parliament is often made at the committee levels.

They also point out a growing trend for legislative drafts to skip plenary sessions altogether and go straight to inter-institutional negotiations, making it difficult for ordinary people to ascertain how their elected officials voted in the first place.

Opponents argue making them public could obstruct negotiations among MEPs, rendering the legislative process more difficult.

“In theory, the argument against it is that you are taking away the space for negotiations between MEPs and that you in a way obstruct parliamentary work by tracking every individual’s vote,” noted another contact at the centre-left group, who did not want to be named because the party had yet to take an official line.

Legislative swaps, whereby an MEP or a group of MEPs make concessions to the opposing camp on a proposal in exchange for something else would also be more difficult, added the source.

The conservative camp was more direct.

EPP spokesperson Pedro Lopez said there are political consequences to full voting disclosures.

“Sometimes when we are negotiating legislative files, the agreement between the groups is done by the coordinators and sometimes the coordinator of the different political groups in a committee reach deals,” he said.

Lopez said full disclosure reduces the margins of negotiations between the political groups because everyone’s position would be clear.

He pointed out that the EPP is not against the rule as such but that it needs further discussion so that MEPs are fully informed of the proposal and its consequences on future legislative deliberations.

Olivier Hoedeman at the Brussels-base Corporate Europe Observatory said there are no convincing arguments against full transparency in the voting process at the parliament committees.

“Everybody who follows EU-decision making will know that committee votes are absolutely crucial and in many cases, that’s where the real decisions are made,” he said.

Mob storms Macedonian parliament

A nationalist mob violently stormed parliament in Macedonia on Thursday, amid EU concern on police conduct during the attack.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  2. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act
  3. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  4. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  6. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  7. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  8. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  9. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  10. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  11. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?