Thursday

17th Aug 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  2. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  3. Russian power most feared in Europe
  4. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  5. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  6. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  7. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  8. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides