Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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).

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.

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Sergei Magnitsky gave his life to fighting corruption. The least we can do is to honour his sacrifice in the name of the legislation that his heroism inspired.

All Quiet on the Eastern Front?

Russia is trying to foment a clash between Hungary and Ukraine over the territory of Zakarpattia in a potential crisis overlooked by EU leaders.

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

News in Brief

  1. Draft Brexit deal on London cabinet agenda on Wednesday
  2. EU proposes no visa for UK citizens after Brexit
  3. EU parliament 'deeply concerned' on Romania judiciary
  4. Macedonia's ex-PM flees to Hungary, seeks asylum
  5. Cyprus opens first new border crossings in eight years
  6. Putin's Austrian dance partner cancels Moscow visit
  7. Political deadlock over Sweden Democrat influence
  8. Court: Catalan referendum organisers must repay costs

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  2. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  3. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  4. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  5. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey
  6. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  7. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  8. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us