Thursday

4th Mar 2021

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

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

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."

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday to change the rules of procedure of the centre-right European People's Party parliamentary group to allow the suspension of a member party.

EUobserved

The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them

Ideas that are attacked are actually being promulgated. That has been the case for centuries, at least as far back as Thomas Aquinas. And that is certainly the case today with Facebook and Twitter.

News in Brief

  1. EU regulator reviewing Russia's Covid-19 vaccine data
  2. Northern Irish paramilitaries pressure UK and EU on Brexit
  3. Man injures 8 people with axe in Sweden in possible terrorist act
  4. France bans far-right vigilante group
  5. EU dismayed as Lukashenko jails doctor over his diagnosis
  6. Brussels proposes EU-wide 'disabled status' card by 2023
  7. Czechs seek outside help to treat Covid-19 patients
  8. German intelligence to spy on far-right AfD party

Coronavirus

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Austrian ex-minister joins list of EU's pro-Kremlin lobbyists
  2. Internal Frontex probe to deliver final report this week
  3. Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves
  4. EU capitals water down MEPs' ambition in climate law
  5. The EU's perverse agenda in Bosnia
  6. US joins EU sanctions on Russia in show of unity
  7. EU needs to 'raise price' for attacking democracy, MEPs say
  8. EU Parliament to hold Frontex probe behind closed doors

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us