Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Opinion

European Parliament's political diversity at risk

  • "It will not look to the outside world like a step forward for democracy" (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament is unlike any other. There is no executive formed by a majority party and there is no official opposition. As befits the complex diversity of the union it serves, the parliament is pluralism personified.

When I last counted there were 99 different political parties represented here, forming transnational alliances within seven political groups.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Seven is not a large number. The system caters well enough with seven groups and a small number of non-attached members.

Parliament has done very well to cope with the enormous challenge of the recent enlargement of the union from 15 to 27 member states.

Recent adjustments to our rules of procedure have effectively reduced the risk of filibustering by militant extremists. Further modifications now in train - many of them spawned by [UK socialist MEP Richard] Corbett - will make the conduct of business on the floor of the house yet more efficient.

So why do the [conservative] PPE-ED and the [socialist] PSE insist now on cutting the number of party political groups in the European Parliament?

They propose to raise the threshold for the formation of groups in the next parliament, as from July 2009. At present Rule of Procedure 29 says that political groups shall comprise at least 20 MEPs from one fifth of the member states. The proposal from Mr Corbett is to raise these criteria to 30 and one quarter, respectively. This comes, moreover, at a time when the size of parliament is to shrink from 785 members to 751.

The effect of this measure in the present parliament would be to shut down the UEN (with only six nationalities) and the Ind Dem group (with only 23 members).

Whatever one's views about their politics, it cannot be argued that these small groups do not represent a legitimate strand of European public opinion. We live in a diverse Europe, and if the European Parliament is to be the credible forum for post-national democracy, all sorts of minority opinions have to be given effective, if proportionate representation.

It does not look well for the two large groups of conservatives and socialists to be domineering. They already have a lot of power to determine how the house is run and to influence legislation. The D'Hondt weighting system, which governs parliament's internal division of power, already gives the larger groups a disproportionate share of posts, money and speaking time.

Mr Corbett and his colleagues MM Leinen and Mendez de Vigo argue that this proposed restriction on the number of small groups is not an illiberal or anti-democratic reform.

But it does not feel like a liberal measure, and it will not look to the outside world like a step forward for democracy. So I am at a loss to know exactly what problems the proposals are meant to address.

The effect could be devastating. If small groups disappear, MEPs with widely divergent opinions will either be forced to join larger groups or to join the inglorious ranks of the "Non-Inscrits" [non-inscribed].

Either way the result will be increased political incoherence which is exactly the opposite of what is needed at a time when the parliament stands on the threshold, thanks to the Treaty of Lisbon, of assuming very important new responsibilities over a wide range of issues.

The leaders of the five smaller groups (ALDE, UEN, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL and Ind Dem) have written to [conservative and socialist group leaders] Daul and Schultz to register their objection to the unfortunate proposal of the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Their letter should be read, reflected upon - and answered with a decision to sustain parliament's pluralism by rejecting my committee's proposal.

Andrew Duff is spokesman on constitutional affairs for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

Parliament rules on political groups need tidying up

MEPs in the constitutional affairs committee on Tuesday morning voted down an attempt to raise the threshold for creating a political group in the European Parliament. UK Labour MEP and author of the report Richard Corbett defends the proposal and suggests the issue will be revisted in plenary in the coming weeks.

MEPs in dispute over political group sizes

MEPs on Tuesday rejected a proposal to raise the threshold of deputies needed to create a political group in the European Parliament, with critics saying it would threaten political diversity and serve only the two biggest factions in the assembly. However, the issue is set to be revisited in July.

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

EU must confront Poland and Hungary

Curtailing NGOs and threatening judicial independence are the hallmarks of developing-world dictators and authoritarian strongmen, not a free and pluralistic European Union.

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

EU must confront Poland and Hungary

Curtailing NGOs and threatening judicial independence are the hallmarks of developing-world dictators and authoritarian strongmen, not a free and pluralistic European Union.

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban