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Friday, July 04, 2014

European Parliament committees: more secret ballots and backroom deals?

EU democracy at work?
The European Parliament has announced the composition of its Committees, with MEP groups hard at work negotiating the final deals to see who will be Chair and Vice-Chair of the different bodies.

These Committees vary in importance, from the powerful ECON and IMCO committees which deal with Economic and Monetary affairs and the single market respectively - to more niche Committees such as the 'Petitions' Committee.

Looking through the lists of MEPs appointed, the first thing that strikes us is that all the Committees are gigantic - the Committee on Foreign Affairs has a ludicrous 71 members (almost 10% of the entire parliament)! It's not immediately clear why this is, but we can't help but wonder if the possibility for significant travel abroad is not a factor. But even the more serious Committees are of an unwieldy size - Trade (also with some travel perks) has 41 members, which is perhaps more justifiable as the EP now has a veto over free trade deals. It is worth remembering that under Parkinson's "coefficient of inefficiency" a committee of more than 20 members is less likely to make good decisions.

Secondly there are some interesting appointments:
  • German neo-Nazi MEP Udo Voigt will sit on the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
  • AfD leader Bernd Lucke is to be nominated as vice chair of the ECON committee - in charge of monetary union. Combine this with the fact that the Chair is likely to be an Italian Socialist MEP and some eurozone members might be concerned about this committee.
Under the EU's favoured D'Hondt formula, the different groups are allotted committee chairs according to their relative weights. The ECR group for instance, has secured an additional chair due to its increased size; it has gained Security and Defence on top of its existing Internal Market chair.

However nothing is settled in the EP until you have had the mandatory secret ballot. One potential secret upset could be an attempt to deprive the UKIP/M5S EFDD group of it sole Committee chair - the Petitions committee. Under a secret ballot it is entirely possible for the larger groups to block the EFDD group from chairing a committee.Whether or not you agree with their politics, there is no doubt that they are entitled to such a role, and even the Greens have come out saying as much. Another stitch up here would once again expose a lack of democracy and transparency at the heart of the European Parliament - and surely only play into the hands of those who want to leave the EU.


Ray said...

It strikes me how much this European Union is like a mirror image MAFIA scenario, in a breathtaking fashion. The Mafia built their investment funds from crime, and created legitimate business's as cover for themselves, and successfully in some cases no doubt, we may never fund out.
The EU on the other hand, started as a relatively legitimate organisation of reputable (for the most part) nations who contributed to an investment fund which has grown to be the working capital for a criminal organisation dealing in the slavery of all the southern European countries, and the imposition of binding regulations controlled by a collections of Dons and Capos with no legitimate mandate, and now a new Godfather. Their power leaves them with no fear, they can rig votes, use money and power to hide behind, and will continue to build until the wars they pretended to be trying to prevent will erupt again.

Jesper said...

The lack of solidarity in the EP is also quite astonishing. For all their talk about solidarity they cannot even show solidarity among themselves. The evidence? The party-group financing.

There is no doubt that there are benefits from organising into party-groups but there is also no doubt that the salaries and benefits for individual MEPs are quite high.

Why are the MEPs not pooling some of their personal salaries and benefits to pay for their administration and co-ordination of the party-groups?

How much money is paid out of the common coffers to the individual MEPs in the largest group?
And they still argue they need to have extra money. Is it simply greed? Or is it a combination of incompetence in the areas of economy, budgeting, administration and leadership?

David Horton said...

This is really all rather grotesque.

In North Korea elections, there is only one choice on the paper. Following the vote (which would be much trumpeted as being the very paradigm of democracy), the re-appointed chief would dole out jobs and appointments according to his whim and favour.

In pre-Glasnost USSR there was a similar system, but there was at least a pretence of democracy, although such suffrage was tempered by the knowledge that the state would know who you voted for and take remedial action accordingly.

The Vatican sits in secret conclave and the candidates tough it out for the top job. No one else is allowed to listen in and there is no way for adherents to have any voice at all. The winner is then declared and given divine powers.

The EU seems to have taken the most distasteful themes of other systems of non-democracy and combined it to create the chimera we see here. It has similar levels of accountability in that:

• we, the public have no say over which candidates are given MEP jobs by their parties
• we have no say over which grouping our party joins.
• in UK, we have to accept that someone that no-one in Britain could have voted for he who is now, nominally at least, our president
• following a pretence of democracy, the MEPs & their leaders sit around like packs of hyenas and carve up the jobs to whomsoever they decide

I do not understand the Open Europe position. You maintain an opinion that recognises the need for reform, a need perhaps of a two (or three) speed EU, a desire of a reversal to the purer EEC, yet you know that the EU won’t countenance any significant reform. Anything given by the EU back to Britain would be something that they can afford to give back; by definition, worthless. Essentially, you have in many of your reports, explained that reform is essential, yet you also recognise that it is not something that the EU can afford to give away. If you believe that meaningful reforms (or should that be concessions? Or sops?) can be ceded back from Brussels, what do you think they are? Even Cameron doesn’t know, but I suspect that he is feeling very exposed now.

One thing that it is very obviously not on the table. This execrable display of gravy train riding by the MEPs that you describe.

We have arrived at a point where Britain’s continuing membership of the EU is inimical to a majority of Britons. What is astonishing is that despite the very-well publicised opposition and anti-EU feeling, the MEPs can still behave like a bunch of cutthroat pirates sharing out their booty. Have they learned nothing?