Monday

22nd Oct 2018

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."

Interview

Bannon's The Movement to launch with January summit

Belgian Mischael Modrikamen is working with US strategist Steve Bannon to make the new hard-right grouping 'The Movement' go global. First step: a summit in January in Brussels, and high-level talks are underway, possibly with Brazil's far-right presidential contender.

Bavarian election puts Merkel on defensive

Voters in Germany's largest state hived off to the left and right of the ruling conservatives in Sunday's elections - posing questions for Merkel's authority.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Lone Merkel announces Saudi arms ban
  2. Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar
  3. Bannon's The Movement to launch with January summit
  4. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  5. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  6. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  7. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  8. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us