17th Nov 2018

EU parliament 'has equal power' to member states

  • The vote on the next parliament president will take place next week (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament is on a level power footing with member states in the EU's complex institutional triangle after years of being a mere afterthought for EU governments, its outgoing president has said.

Urging his successor to keep up the fight to "defend" parliament's interests, German conservative Hans-Gert Poettering on Wednesday (8 July) said: "We are very successful now as European Parliament to be as equal partners of the council."

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He suggested that the parliament already has the upper hand over the commission, because it "only comes into office …once we have voted in favour."

This "institutional link" for controlling the council is missing Mr Poetterig said, but parliament should be "ambitious" to increase MEPs' powers towards member states.

Looking back to 30 years ago, when he was first elected, he noted that the assembly had "zero legislative competence" and now it is "responsible for 75 percent of legislation."

His words come as the parliament stands to gain even more law-making power if the EU's new institutional rules, the Lisbon Treaty, enters into force in the coming months.

In addition, the parliament has just thwarted member states' plans to secure a quick vote on the nomination of the next European Commission president, arguing that it should not be treated as a "rubber stamp" institution. The vote is now set to take place in September and not July.

The move builds on an important parliament victory in 2004 when it forced the withdrawal of Italy's commission candidate on the grounds that his personal views on social issues were unsuitable for the post which he was aiming for.

Since the 2004 move both the commission and the council are careful to pay public respect to the institution, and, unlike in previous years, no longer take it for granted or ignore it altogether.

Mr Poettering's remarks were directed at Jerzy Buzek, a centre-right Pole, who is likely to be voted in as his successor next week.

New broom

For his part, Mr Buzek, a former prime minister, said that "streamlining the way parliament works is urgent" pointing to tightening up the way committees (where most of the legislative work is done) function and following through on questions posed by MEPs.

He said there should be "as few first reading agreements as possible," noting that this does not allow enough "proper dialogue" on the issues.

Second reading agreements considerably prolong the length of time laws take to get through the Brussels system. Parliament has one reading on legislation that is not considered controversial or if it is under timetable pressure.

The Polish MEP, taking part in a presidential debate, also suggested that parliament should "meet with the European Commission president every month" so it can "influence" its work.

He also promised not to ignore the eurosceptics, who will have a stronger voice in this legislature. "Eurosceptics are very important to us because they pick up our failings," he noted.


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