Saturday

8th May 2021

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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).

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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 Porto EU-India summit - let's not forget south Asia

Will this weekend's EU-India summit help translate the recently approved Council conclusions on the Indo-Pacific strategy into more pragmatic set of actions able to elevate Europe in the Asia-Pacific region?

Why Europe should stop worrying about 'sportswashing'

The UAE's international reputation is steadily being shredded by its own leadership, in moves so blatant that no amount of sporting spin can hide them. Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, China will also discover that sportswashing never works.

Conference on Future of Europe must listen to local voices

The Conference on the Future of Europe must concretely involve our local communities, regions, cities and villages. This is key to avoid a top-down exercise that would only feed the demagogic and anti-European false narrative of populists and eurosceptics.

Is Turkey's crackdown on journalists starting to crack?

With the Biden administration and EU leaders both pressing the reset button on relations with Turkey, could press freedom begin to be restored? Ankara is currently one of the world's biggest jailers of journalists.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Column

'Sofagate' was more about power than sexism

Sexism may have played a role, but the deeper meaning of Ursula von der Leyen's humiliation in the palace of Turkish president Erdoğan is political and geopolitical.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  2. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  3. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  4. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  5. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  6. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  7. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says
  8. 11 EU states want to cut fossil-fuels from cross-border projects

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us