Sunday

24th Mar 2019

MEPs want to see fewer heads of state in plenary

  • MEPs want the House to become more political (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament should dedicate less time to reports with no legislative power and be "more selective" when inviting heads of states to speak to the plenary, a taskforce on reforming the internal workings of the EU assembly has suggested.

In an interim report presented to the parliamentary group leaders on Thursday (20 September), the group tabled a list of over 25 concrete practical improvements for running the House.

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

These are designed to "improve Parliament's working procedures and make them more transparent and to bring our institution more in line with what citizens expect of a European Parliament of today," says the report.

A key idea is to cut down debating time and the permitted length of so-called "own initiative" reports that present their authors' opinions on a certain subject but have no legislative effect in the EU.

In 2006, 92 own-reports were tabled, on issues such as women in international trade and politics, environmentally-friendly fishing methods or confiscation of automobiles by the Greek authorities.

The reform taskforce points out MEPs spend more time debating such reports (22%) than on real EU bills (18%) and calls for a reduction - in terms of number and length – of the non-legislative documents.

Some members had suggested there should be a cap on the number of amendments to the draft legislation with reports attracting too many to be shifted back to the parliamentary committees for further debate.

A total of 10,767 amendments were issued in 2006 and some MEPs argue it makes the voting too technical and likely to get influenced by lobbyists who tend to distribute their version of the voting lists.

But the suggestion did not make it to the final document by the reform taskforce.

Presidents wasting MEPs time?

MEPs also complain about the "recent practise" of frequent visits of heads of states from EU member states or third countries to the Strasbourg or Brussels plenary.

"With a view to reducing the overall number of such formal sittings parliament should also become more selective as to whom to invite to address the House," they argue, pointing out that the formal sessions interrupt the legislature's normal work.

The first concrete conclusion of the reform taskforce brings together contributions received from around 100 MEPs and it was adopted by the 8-member body unanimously.

"I'm optimistic about what we can achieve with this exercise," the chairwoman, German social democrat MEP Dagmar Roth-Behrendt told EUobserver, adding that she has been warned by parliament's veterans not to expect too much as it takes strong political muscle to push through significant changes in the House.

Liberal leader Graham Watson is more sceptical. "I doubt that the grand coalition of the centre-right EPP-ED and social democrats will allow a real reform of the parliament. There are a lot of inept conservatives in the system."

He himself stood down from the taskforce after - mainly the centre-right MEPs - voted down a proposal to add extra parliamentary debates about the up-to-date issues with the European Commission, which he had been pushing for to make the House more political.

Danish eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde would like to see more radical changes, such as clear thresholds on amendments and voting along political lines rather than on technicalities, and only on the issues where the EU parliament actually has legislative powers.

But he did vote in favour of the report, as "it is psychologically important to show that we want to become a more political parliament."

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

EPP hits threshold to trigger Orban expulsion probe

At least seven national parties from Europe's biggest political alliance, the centre-right European People's Party, want the group's 'enfant terrible', Hungary's nationalist and authoritarian Fidesz kicked out - following Budapest's latest anti-EU campaign.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us