Pro-EU forces shut out eurosceptics from Parliament top jobs
By Benjamin Fox
Eurosceptic deputies were denied several of the European Parliament's top committee posts on Monday (7 July), as the assembly's centrist groups joined forces to shut them out.
The committees elected chairpersons and vice-chairpersons using the “D'Hondt method” on the relative sizes of the EU assembly's seven political groups.
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Twenty one of the 22 committee chair posts, and the vast majority of the 88 vice-chair roles, were uncontested and elected by acclaim.
However, the conservative EPP, centre-left S&D and liberal Alde groups on the petitions committee joined forces to reject Eleanora Evi, a member of the eurosceptic EFDD group from Italian comic Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, instead voting by a 23 to eight margin in favour of Swedish liberal Cecilia Wijkstrom.
The eurosceptic ECR, left-wing GUE, and Green groups, had all backed Evi.
Evi herself said the result was “anti-democratic and immoral,” while EFDD group leader, Britain’s Nigel Farage, said “the europhile groups have again demonstrated their fear of democracy, their hatred of minority views, and their clear rejection of transparency.”
Margrete Auken, the Green spokesman on the petitions committee, described the move as a "blow to the democratic process in the EU Parliament.”
“It is all the more important for the petitions committee, given its role in defending rules and rights and standing up to interference by special interests,” she said. She added that Evi “appears to have all the qualifications and the right approach to adequately exercise this duty".
The petitions committee does not deal with legislation, but instead responds to some 1,500 petitions sent each year by citizens across the EU, in what seemed to some a good fit with the Five Star Movement’s call for more direct democracy.
A spokesman for the Gue group confirmed it had “no fundamental problem” with Evi's candidacy, adding that the d’Hondt method exists to “respect the strengths of the political groups and the number of their MEPs as elected by citizens”.
The EFDD were not the only ones to lose out.
ECR deputies Bernd Lucke and Beatrix Storch, both members of the Alternative fuer Deutschland party, were rejected by the economic affairs and women's rights committees, respectively.
Such committee controversies are rare, but not unprecendented.
Five years ago Marta Andreassen, a deputy from Farage’s Ukip party who later defected to the ECR group, was opposed by the centrist groups after being nominated as a vice-chair of the budgetary control committee.
As expected, the EPP and S&D groups claimed the lion's-share of the top posts, taking eight and six committee chairmanships, respectively.