We are now several weeks on from having each been asked to cast a vote for the next European Parliament, but what have our newly elected MEPs been up to?
Yesterday I wrote quite extensively about the on-going power struggle between the Parliament and Member State Governments over the issue of the Presidency of the European Commission. Nevertheless, trying to get ‘their man’, so to speak, nominated to the Commission Presidency is only one of the many activities currently being undertaken by MEPs.
In fact, the main focus of the last several weeks, intensifying this week as time is beginning to run out, is the formation of the all-important political groups. These provide the opportunity for parties which are confined to national borders to work with like-minded MEPs from elsewhere, and are the basis for deciding who gets what jobs in the powerful Committees of the European Parliament as well as granting the Leaders (called ‘Presidents’, as if we didn’t already have enough confusion over Presidents of EU bodies!) extra speaking rights.
On Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday I laid out the main negotiations which are going on to form political groups and highlighted some of the successes and pitfalls so far encountered by the parties involved. Here’ a brief excerpt:
European Conservatives and Reformists Group, now led by London Tory MEP Syed Kamall, has expanded its numbers via the admittance of the controversial Danish People’s Party and the Finns Party. They also last week voted to admit the Alternative for Germany Party, against the wishes of David Cameron, and no doubt much to the annoyance of Angela Merkel, hardly helping the Prime Minister’s chances of getting his way as regards the Presidency of the European Commission.
It is now unlikely that ALDE [the Liberal Group] will remain the third largest group in Strasbourg-based Parliament as the
Time is now fast running out for the political groups to form and Nigel Farage is struggling to meet the 7-Member State requirement for his Europe of Freedom & Democracy Group (to qualify as a political group in the European Parliament you must have at least 25 MEPs drawn from at least 7 Member States). This is after the French National Front’s Marine Le Pen took several Europe of Freedom & Democracy members for her new group, European Alliance for Freedom.
Several hours after my article was published, ALDE released a press release confirming that they had, in fact, overtaken ECR to be the third largest group in the Parliament once again, after being joined by another 12 MEPs. See here for more information.
You can read the full article on Liberal Democrat Voice here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/whats-going-on-in-the-european-parliament-this-week-40967.html
UPDATE 19/06/14: Nigel Farage has now been successful in cobbling together a group which meets the 7-Member State requirement, with his Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group now including not only 17 MEPs from Italy’s Five Star Movement, whom he successfully courted last week, but Members from the Swedish Democrats and the Lithuania Order and Justice Party, with one MEP each from the Czech Free Citizens Party and the Union of Greens and Farmers' group. His EFD Group has been completed by the admittance of France’s Joelle Bergeron MEP who quit the Front National two days after being elected last month. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27907586
UPDATE 20/06/14: It seems my original prediction that the Conservative-led ECR would overtake the Liberal Group in being the third largest bloc in the European Parliament was indeed correct. The Flemish N-VA party of Belgium had been expected to join ALDE but voted instead to join the ECR, bringing their total MEPs up to 68 against ALDE’s 67. As the EU Observer notes here, this will have consequences in terms of the distribution of important Committee places and other jobs in the EP, diminishing the Liberal influence on the work of the Parliament.