Lacking real influence, fringe groups use alternative tools to increase visibility in the EP

Averages per political groups - activity stats 2015.01.13

The impression of the centrist grand governing coalition  vs. opposition at the fringes is increased even more by the way these smaller groups use alternative tools to hold EU institutions accountable, while at the same time gain visibility: the GUE-NGL, EFDD and non-attached MEPs draft substantially more written statements and parliamentary questions than centrist MEPs.

This may come as a reaction to the low capacity of directly influencing decisions by votes and amendments, where one needs a political majority in order to pass proposals. On the other hand, submitting statements and parliamentary questions can be done by individual Members alone in an unlimited manner, which allows the Member the ability to put political pressure on the institutions, particularly if these statements are well-communicated to the public.

 

To read full report, click here.

European People’s Party (EPP) is the most united political family in the new European Parliament term

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The largest European political group, the EPP, is proving much better at mobilising its members in this first part of the new parliamentary term, and as a result it continues to be the group who has won most votes. All of this despite substantial losses in the May 2014 elections. This can be partly explained by the new political landscape, with the EPP under increased pressure to rally its members.

The policy areas where the EPP wins most easily are economic and monetary affairs, budget, internal market and industry, research and energy. On the other hand, EPP won only on 75% of the votes on civil liberties justice and home affairs, where a centre-left majority continues to hold the upper hand, as before the elections.

Political groups winning votes July-Dec 2014

The level of internal cohesion of the EPP has reached a record 95% (the highest level since 2004, when VoteWatch began measuring this indicator). Similarly, ALDE group, once the 4th most cohesive group has moved to 2nd, improving its score from 88% to 91%.

Political groups cohesion July-Dec 2014

The ECR group has, in theory, become stronger after the elections, as it is now the third largest in the House. In practice, however, its new structure, in which the British and Polish delegations are almost at a par, apparently makes more difficult to reach a common position than before: the group has lost 10% in cohesion.

On the left side, the S&D group is slightly less cohesive than before the elections, while the biggest negative change is recorded in the Greens-EFA group (which used to be the most cohesive group in the 2009-2014 term): it has lost 6%, reaching a record low of 88.5% at the end of 2014.

Click here to read full report.

Greens/EFA Members are the most participative in European Parliament votes

Participation in votes present

Similar to the first six months of the preceding Parliament, the European political group most present in the roll-call votes is the Greens-EFA, with an average participation of 90.5%. It is closely followed by the centre-left S&D group (90%). Interestingly, the non-attached MEPs have become much more participative in votes after the elections: their participation score has gone up from 77% to 89%.

The groups at the fringes, the GUE-NGL and the EFDD have the lowest averages of participation, 85.7% and 85%, respectively.

Political groups participation July-Dec 2014

All in all, the MEPs seem to have become more interested in the work of the parliament: we spotted a clear ascendant trend in participation in votes, having compared the behaviour in the first six months of each of the last three terms. During the interval July-December 2014, the average participation (in roll-call votes) has reached a record 88%. This development can be explained mainly by the fact that the role of the European Parliament as an institution has increased over time and the issues voted have more concrete impact. At the same time, the more careful scrutiny exercised by the civil society is also likely to play an important a role.

Participation in roll call votes

At individual Member level, 49 MEPs have never missed a vote in the first six months of the current term: 21 from EPP, 14 S&D, 6 ECR, 3 EFDD, 2 GUE-NGL, 2 non-attached and 1 ALDE Member.

To see the real-time participation score for each MEP, go to http://www.votewatch.eu/en/term8-voting-statistics.html.

Click here to see the full report.

The make-up and break-up of the ‘EU governing coalition’ ?

Grand-coalition-plate

 

During the first six months of the current term of the European Parliament (July 2014 – December 2014), the three pro-European groups at the centre of the spectrum have succeeded in being ‘on the winning side’ much more often than the other groups, as a result of pre-vote agreements between them. Had there not been the vote in January 2015, when the political groups founded impossible to reach consensus on the Commission’s working plan for the current year, we could have concluded that a (super) grand coalition is alive and well. However, the picture is much more complex.

EPP group has won more votes (voting ‘yes’ if the majority of the Parliament voted ‘yes’, or ‘no’ if the majority voted ’no’) than any other political group (92.5%). EPP is closely followed by the ALDE group (90%) and then by the S&D group (85.8%). In this respect, the situation has not changed much after the May 2014 elections.

Political groups winning votes July-Dec 2014

Some important votes have already taken place in the first six months of the 8thparliamentary term. Among these, the vote on the approval of the new Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker was a milestone. The dynamic of this vote confirmed the existence of a ‘super grand coalition’ composed of the main pro-European groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE). These groups were interested in supporting the college, as they all had commissioners ‘inside’.

Approval of the Juncker Commission

These three groups also voted together on a number of issues linked to further European integration, such as the increase of funding for the EU 2015 budget, or on the implementation of the European semester. All in all, the two biggest EP groups, the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D groups have voted the same way in almost 80% of the votes, which is 7% more often than before the EU elections in May 2014 as shown by the graph below.

CoalitionEPP

The political groups outside this super-grand coalition have been on the winning side much more rarely: ECR won 65% of the votes, the Greens 52%, GUE-NGL 35% and EFDD only 23%.

Such a development makes it much more difficult for the public to understand what the alternatives proposed by these mainstream political forces are, and therefore for the citizens to relate to any of them. In exchange, it creates the impression of an EPP-S&D governing coalition (joined by ALDE), thus fuelling the narrative of the fringe groups who try to position themselves as the real ‘opposition to the EU governing coalition’.

A marriage under stress

 

Grand-coalition-brake-up-small

Moreover, the unusual developments at the plenary sitting held in January, when the Commission’s working plan for 2015 was voted, announce that this ‘marriage’ is troublesome for the political groups as well. In a dramatic display of power play, the political groups voted down each other’s proposals one by one, thus leaving the Parliament as an institution with no official position on what the priorities of the Executive lead by Mr Juncker should be for this year.

It seems Pandora’s box was opened when measures aimed at reducing red tape were proposed, along with the debate over TTIP. This greatly antagonised the left , who argued that social and environmental standards would be affected. In this instance, the EPP and S&D behaved more like senior and junior governing partners who are unable to agree internally before the matter goes wide into the open.

This is a clear signal that, after the EU elections in May 2014 and the Spitzenkandidaten process, the European Commission has become more political and that it will have a more difficult time working with Parliament. The new balance of power in the EP makes it more laborious for the Executive to push its agenda: the EPP is the largest group, but is far from having a comfortable majority. The rise in numbers of the far left and the nationalists have substantially complicated the majority building processes, which inserts an element of unpredictability as regards to the outcome of some the most controversial pieces of legislation expected to be dealt with in 2015.

Concretely, we should expect that the debates over proposals to reduce red-tape, those that affect environmental agenda, extend the internal market for services and strengthen economic supervision (revision of the 6-pack), as well as the TTIP (particularly investors’ protection clause) will be fiercely disputed and the votes will be too close to call, unless some kind of consensus is reached beforehand.

Below are just a few examples of votes from the past term, where outcomes might be different in the new EP, given the changes in the balance of power:

Macroeconomic supervision, part of 6-pack, adopted in September 2011:

Surveillance of budgetary positions and surveillance and coordination

 

Call for the strengthening of the internal market for services, adopted in September 2013: 

Internal market for services

 

Call to exclude the investors’ protection clause from the TTIP, rejected in May 2013: 

EU trade and investment agreement nego

To read full report, click here.

Press release: “Who holds the power in the new European Parliament ? And why ?”

Report picture

Brussels, 27 February 2015. VoteWatch Europe, the organisation tracking the voting and activity records of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), has released a special report to shed light on the developments of the first 6 months of the new EP term. The report is based mainly on the roll-call votes in the EP plenary.

VoteWatch Europe finds that the “grand coalition” (EPP-S&D-ALDE) is more frequent in votes in this EP than in the previous two EPs.  The EPP and S&D voted together in 4 out of 5 votes in the first six monthsNevertheless, the grand coalition has broken down on several key issues so far, notoriously failing to agree on the Commission’s working plan for 2015 voted upon in January: the EPP supported the deregulation agenda, while the S&D wanted more environmental and social protection.

Professor Simon Hix (click here for picture), Chairman of VoteWatch, explained “the immediate response of the big groups to the rise of populists on the right and the left has been to come closer together.  But the grand coalition is unstable and as soon as the Juncker Commission unveiled its concrete regulatory plans, it broke down. After the elections, the EP has become more political and on some issues the Commission cannot rely on the support of a majority in the EP. Consequently, the fate of key environmental and economic policies, as well as TTIP, is harder to predict”.

The report also highlights that, following loses in elections, the centre-right EPP group has become more disciplined, which has enabled it to remain the leading force in the EP. ALDE has also become more consensual, while the ECR and the Greens-EFA have struggled to act in a united way.

What impact of the increased strength of fringe groups ?

Doru Frantescu (click here for picture), Director of VoteWatch, revealed that “the fringe groups, in spite of their increased strength in numbers, have not been able to impose their own views in key EP decisions so far. However, their presence in greater numbers seems to be forcing EPP and S&D to dilute their differences. This will make it increasingly difficult for citizens to identify mainstream parties’ agenda and relate to them, which poses a problem to transparency and may result in even further support for radical views.

The study also points out that the fringe groups use other tools to achieve visibility, such as parliamentary questions and oral and written statements. On the other hand, the non-attached MEPs have participatived in more votes in this EP than in the previous EP.

All in all, average MEP attendance in votes has climbed to an impressive 88%, which is the highest level in 10 years.

What about EP committee votes ?

The report also deplores the fact that the votes in the parliamentary committees are not fully transparent. Although in theory the votes of MEPs on legislative dossiers should be made transparent, in practice the minutes with the votes are published very late, sometimes weeks after, and each of the EP committees provides the information in a different format, which makes it effectively impossible to track the votes.

Full report is freely available on the VoteWatch Europe’s website.

Background: Votewatch.eu is an independent organisation set up to promote better debates and greater transparency in EU decision-making by providing easy access to, and analysis of, the decisions and activities of EU Institutions. It was launched in early 2009 and in the 2014 EP elections campaign was one of the most quoted sources of information on EU politics by the media world-wide. More info on www.votewatch.eu.

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What do the EU political families think about Greece, austerity and budget commitments?

European Parliament

This week, Greece has reached a deal with its Eurozone partners to extend its current bailout programme by 4 months. The extension buys time for the new government in Greece to assess its options. Greece is required to submit a reform proposal to the Eurogroup, listing all the policy measures it plans to take during the remainder of the bailout period.

What do Members of the European Parliament say and why is this important?

Regardless of the Eurogroup’s ability to reach a compromise, political groups in the European Parliament have taken their own positions on the situation in Greece and in general about how the economic crises should be dealt with. Continue reading

VoteWatch Europe is now on YouTube

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Youtube is one of the biggest platforms for video-sharing, having more than 1 billion users around the globe and approximately 300 hours of video being uploaded every minute. These statistics show YouTube’s potential in educational matters. By spreading informational content on such platforms, the chances of reaching a higher number of people interested in a specific subject increase.

The most important feature from YouTube is the possibility of packing valuable information in attractive video-clips, making the process of understanding easier for those who are interested.

After Facebook and Twitter, on 18th of February, VoteWatch Europe created a channel on YouTube where five videos have already been published. Our video-clips serve as instruments for teaching the public how to use the website www.votewatch.eu in order to discover the information needed to track the EU policies and assess the activity of their representatives in Brussels and Strasbourg, the Members of the European Parliament.

For example, some of the tutorials posted show how to find and read the information regarding the participation and parliamentary activities of the MEPs.

You can check our videos below and subscribe to our channel for more video-content.

    How to check what an EU Parliamentarian does? – MEP Profiles

 

    How active are your European Parlamentarians? – MEP Participation

You can tell us what more we can do to increase the accountability of EU institutions by posting a comment of emailing us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

EU governments’ power game with freedom of movement for European citizens: who is losing?

Schengen

Freedom of movement of people inside the Union is one of the four fundamental freedoms on which the European construction is based, along with that of goods, services and capital. While the principle is clearly stated in the EU’s treaties, when it comes to applying it, many issues surface.  The European Executive, the Commission, has proposed in recent years a number of pieces of legislation aimed at removing the remaining regulatory barriers between the countries.

These laws have eventually been approved in the Council of the EU, but only after tough disputes between the Member States. However, the introduction of qualified majority voting has made it possible to reach a position even without all governments agreeing. This has set the ground for a new kind of power game in the Council, with each interested government looking to find allies and build majorities, or blocking minorities. Failure to do so results in being left in minority and losing the battle.  Continue reading

What do EU political families think about the Commission’s plans to cut bureaucracy and red tape?

Red tape

Every year, the European Commission adopts a plan of action for the next twelve months. The Work Programme is prepared in dialogue with the European Parliament and with the European Council.

In the year 2015 the Work Programme has set its focus on a series of proposals and existing legislation, which will be reviewed for the benefit of Europe’s citizens and entrepreneurs. The EU’s regulations play a key role in creating growth and jobs, which is the Juncker Commission’s top priority. While all political forces support this objective in principle, the key challenge is how exactly to achieve it, through more or less regulation? The new EU Executive believes that the answer is to keep EU legislation simple – not to go beyond what is necessary to achieve policy goals and to avoid overlapping layers of regulation.[1] Continue reading

Which EU political family is the most united in the European Parliament ?

Family unity

Background: there are 7 political families in the European Parliament. Individual Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sit not according to nationality, but join political families according to their own ideology. Then, for most of the time, they vote according the position decided within the group. Some groups are more united when the votes are about civil liberties, others are more disciplined when voting on economic affairs.

The political groups have become increasingly united over the past decades, in spite of the increasing cultural and geographical diversity.

Tell us which group do you think is currently the most united and we will give you the answer in a report we will launch on 27 February 2015 in Brussels (click here to register to this event).

Have your say:

Which do you think is the EU political family the most united in the EU Parliament ?