EPP and S&D groups at odds on EU security priorities

The non-binding resolution concerning the European Agenda on Security for 2015-2020 proposed by the Commission was adopted by a narrow margin by the European Parliament. This document  sets out the guidelines on how the Union can bring added value to support the Member States in ensuring security.

The text was adopted by 250 votes in favour 204 against and 184 abstentions. The socialist group and the liberals supported the final resolution. The majority of the EPP members abstained, together with the majority of the Greens and of the GUE/NGL. The conservatives, the eurosceptics and the new party group of Marine Le Pen voted against.

Click here to see how each individual MEP voted.

The resolution askes to the Commission to further address the root causes of crime like inequality, poverty and discrimination and stresses that adequate resources need to be provided to social workers as well as to the police and the judiciary.

MEPs voting in favour of the proposal called for the setting of the right balance between prevention policies and repressive measures in order to preserve freedom and justice. Moreover, they welcomed that the Commission decided to base the Agenda on the principles of full compliance with the rule of law and fundamental rights. Furthermore, the measures enabling the vast collection of personal data were condemned and doubts were expressed regarding the usefulness of mass surveillance measures. Through the resolution, the European Parliament committed to finalise the PNR directive by the end of the year.

EU parliamentarians also called for the inclusion of very strong humanitarian clauses in cooperation agreements with third countries and asked for cooperation with non-democratic countries to be reconsidered.

As regards terrorism, the MEPs welcome the measures put forward by the Commission in order to fight it and condemns the confusion made between terrorism, insecurity, Islam and migrants. The text says that the Commission should develop a thorough strategy as regards EU fighters, to make the prevention of radicalisation a priority for the EU. However, it is also specified that a security policy should promote political and religious tolerance, develop social cohesion and inclusiveness in order to be successful.

The resolution addresses also organised crime and cybercrime which constitute major threats to EU citizens and EU economy.

Groups’ position

The EPP Group decided to abstained because its member were deeply concerned by “the naive approach taken by the Socialists, Liberals, Greens and Communists which was thoroughly reflected in the Resolution.[1]” Ms Hohlmeier MEP, EPP Group Spokeswoman, said: “At a time of unprecedented threats to our security, the Socialists opt to safeguard criminals’ fundamental rights.”

The ECR did not support the resolution because they believe it “fundamentally fails to address the key security challenges facing the EU, such as terrorism, radicalisation, the rights of victims, child protection, human trafficking, and the resources, legislation and cooperation required to deliver this agenda.[2]

GUE/NGL members decided to abstain or oppose the resolution because they are of the opinion that the answer to current threats should not be “More weapons and surveillance”.[3].

[1] http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/If-criminals-were-MEPs-they-would-have-voted-with-the-Left

[2] http://ecrgroup.eu/week_ahead/6th-july-9th-july-2015-strasbourg/#more-12238

[3] http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/gue-ngl-news/terrorism-we-dont-need-more-weapons-and-surveillance-we-need-to-examine-the

TTIP mandate makes it through EP plenary. Investors’ protection system remains in limbo

The European Parliament finally voted on 8 July on one of the most important dossiers it deals with in this term, the Trade Agreement with the US (TTIP). As VoteWatch had predicted in an analysis published in April, a comfortable majority of Members have endorsed the continuation of negotiations conducted by the EU Executive (the Commission) with its American counterpart.

The pro-TTIP camp was formed of the People’s Party (EPP), the majority of the Socialists&Democrats (S&D), Conservatives&Reformists (ECR) and Liberal-democrats (ALDE), which gathered 436 votes (61%). The anti-TTIP camp was formed of the radical-left / communists, Greens/EFA, euro-sceptics (EFDD) and nationalists (EFN), which gathered 241 votes  (34%).

TTIP 9 July

Notably, the Socialist delegations coming from the UK, France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria did not support the mandate for TTIP. Some German and Italian socialists also voted against.


From among the other groups supporting TTIP, the French ALDE delegation abstained, while a few reservations were noted among the Belgian and Slovakian EPP Members. On the other hand, the Hungarian EPP delegation, who did not back TTIP at the start of the negotiations in 2013, now seems to have got back in line with the EPP position.

Click TTIP mandate final vote to see how each MEP voted.

Despite the rather vocal opposition to TTIP from some segments of the public and their corresponding political factions in the Parliament, the agreement received the backing of the large political groups. A study conducted at the end of last year estimated that a majority of the citizens in most EU member states was also supporting the deal, with the publics in Germany and Austria being the most reserved.

PEW research centre

Investors’ protection clause (ISDS) remains in limbo

After months of fierce battles and lobby on both sides, the most controversial clause of the treaty, the ISDS, remains in limbo. The push to explicitly remove the references to ISDS in TTIP were unsuccessful. As VoteWatch predicted, the Socialists were split on this matter, with the most leftist ones arguing for the complete scrapping of the investors’ protection clause, while others preferred a compromise. In a last-minute move, a new compromised amendment between the People’s Party and the Socialists was submitted to be voted upon, even after the normal deadline had expired. This change (am. 117) was harshly criticized by the Greens and the hard left, but in the end the amendment was accepted by the plenary and this ensured a relative victory for the pro free-market camp, made up of the EPP, ECR and ALDE groups, alongside the majority of the Socialists.

ISDS, 117

However, the text adopted is much different from the compromise initially passed through the international trade committee in May. It says that the current ISDS will be replaced by an entirely new system, where the public sector will have a much greater power over the private one, although the phrasing leaves much room for interpretation. See below the initial text as passed in the international trade committee in May (left side) and the text eventually agreed upon in the plenary in July (right side):

Motion for a resolution Amendment 117
(xv) to ensure the applicability of international agreements, to bring an end to the unequal treatment of European investors in the US on account of existing agreements of Member States; to ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion and have a fair opportunity to seek and achieve redress of grievances while benefiting from no greater rights than domestic investors:

–       to build on the concept paper recently presented by Commissioner Malmström to INTA Committee on May 7 and the ongoing discussions in the Trade Ministers’ Council and to use them as a basis for negotiations on a new and effective system of investment protection, as they provide very welcome proposals for reform and improvement,

–       taking into account the EU’s and the US’ developed legal systems, to trust the courts of the EU and of the Member States and of the United States to provide effective legal protection based on the principle of democratic legitimacy, efficiently and in a cost-effective manner,

–       to propose a permanent solution for resolving disputes between investors and states which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny, where potential cases are treated in a transparent manner by publicly appointed, independent professional judges in public hearings and which includes an appellate mechanism, where consistency of judicial decisions is ensured and the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and of the Member States is respected,

–       in the medium term, a public International Investment Court could be the most appropriate means to address investment disputes;


(xv) to ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion, while benefiting from no greater rights than domestic investors, and to replace the ISDS-system with a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny, where potential cases are treated in a transparent manner by publicly appointed, independent professional judges in public hearings and which includes an appellate mechanism, where consistency of judicial decisions is ensured, the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and of the Member States is respected, and where private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives;


The analysis of the votes on other references to ISDS throughout the document voted by the EP plenary seems to suggest that there would have been a majority even if the provision had been more clearly phrased in the direction of including a reformed ISDS, but the pro-free market camp seems to have preferred a more vague and weaker phrasing in exchange for a broader political support. For example, amendments 29 and 72, that aimed at delegitimising ISDS by inserting into the resolution a provision that argued that a majority of the public is against it, has received the backing of only 244 and 245 Members, respectively. These amendments were rejected by a margin of 200 votes: 447 and 458 votes against.

As a result, the Commission has a mandate from the Parliament to continue the negotiations on TTIP and to propose some sort of supra-national arbitration system to handle possible disputes between investors and states, but it is not clear (to the Commission, the investors, the governments or the public) how this will look like. This room for interpretation announces the continuation of struggles and is likely to contribute to making negotiations lengthier.


TTIP has generated an unprecedented lobbying activity as both the proponents and the opponents of the deal aim to form ad-hoc coalitions and rally as much support as possible among the MEPs, to ensure majorities in favour or against the most contentious provisions of the text.

Although the European Parliament is not formally involved in negotiations, the European Commission is legally obliged to keep Parliament updated, and Parliament has the power to reject the trade deal once it has been finalised. As seen in the case of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the rejection of a done deal is not only a theoretical possibility, but can turn into reality if a (political) majority of MEPs disagree with the content of the deal, or the low level of transparency of the process.

Before the actual ratification vote, the Parliament usually votes, once or more times, a non-binding resolution stating its position and the ‘no go’ zones, as is the case of the resolution currently being worked on in the international trade committee (INTA). The EP vote on 8 July 2015 is the second on TTIP, after the one in May 2013. The treaty is expected to come to EP for actual ratification in 2016 at the earliest.

Read also: The influence of EP rapporteurs on international trade dossiers is over-estimated.

For more detailed analysis and predictions of the voting trends on other clauses of TTIP (or any other subject), you are welcome to contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

Juncker’s investment fund is approved by a grand EP coalition


A rather large majority of EU Parliamentarians (76%) approved the establishment of the European Strategic and Investment Plan (EFSI)[1], also known as the “Juncker Plan”.



How the EFSI will work


After the green light by the MEPs, the fund will be approved by the Council and then launched this summer to boost EU’s economy and jobs creation by releasing and estimated €315 billion in public and private investment.


The report was jointly drafted by co-rapporteurs of the two biggest EP groups, the center-right People’s Party and center-left Socialists, in order to ensure a broad support among the backbenchers.


The EFSI will be run by the EU Investment Bank (EIB) and will provide public financing to economically viable projects, but which would otherwise not be funded by private investors due to the perceived high risk involved.  The EFSI will encourage private investors to be part of it by assuming part of this risk. This way, the plan wants to create growth without generating new debt. Small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as mid-cap companies, will be the key beneficiary of EFSI support.


EFSI will include €16 billion guarantee from the EU budget and €5 billion from the EIB’s own resources.


EPP+S&D+ALDE coalition was needed to push it through Parliament

In the absence of a dominant EP group, a coalition, and therefore a compromise between EPP, S&D and ALDE was needed to secure a majority in favour of the investment plan. The Greens/EFA group was split: most of its Members supported the plan, but the French, Spanish, Austrian and Hungarian Green MEPs opposed it. Similarly, in the Conservatives and Reformists group, the big national delegations coming from Poland (Duda’s party) and the UK (David Cameron’s party) voted in favour, while the German delegation of AfD and others voted against it.


EPP supported Juncker Plan since the very beginning. “Politicians don’t create jobs, but we can help those who do”, said Mr Fernandes (EPP – PT) co-rapporteur on the dossier[2].


S&D were satisfied by the compromise reached and supported the plan as well. “The European investment plan is now on track and will bring added value to boost growth and jobs in Europe”, said Mr Bullmann (S&D – DE)[3].

ECR believes that the plan could be successful only if coupled by ambitious structural reforms. Moreover, their main priority is to ensure that the fund’s investment decisions are based on sound economic reasons, and not on political ones[4].


ALDE group also backed the fund. Guy Verhofstadt, Chairman of the group, “strongly welcomes the fact that the EU will finally have a tool to combat the ongoing financial crisis. This fund will deliver investments to enhance European competitiveness, particularly in the digital and energy fields.[5]

Greens/EFA were not completely satisfied with the overall funding structure of the fund, but believe that the adopted compromise is an improvement. “While this deal is clearly not perfect, we have definitely improved the Juncker Plan and ensured it will have a greater focus on sustainable investments, which bring real added value”, said Green economics spokesperson Bas Eickhout[6].




Last November, the Commission announced the investment plan to boost the financing of viable investment in Europe. The aim of the plan is to find a solution to the shortage of investment in the European economy due to the crisis and enhance growth and jobs’ creation. The financing will be based on unused margins in the EU’s annual budget, as well as a redeployment of grants from the Connecting Europe facility and the Horizon 2020 programme.

 If you want to know more about EFSI click here.

For more analysis of decision-making in the EU institutions, contact us at secretariat@votewatch.eu.

[1] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2015/559508/EPRS_BRI%282015%29559508_EN.pdf

[2] http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/Juncker-Plan%3A-it%E2%80%99s-time-to-use-it

[3] http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/socialists-and-democrats-expressed-satisfaction-european-strategic-investment-fund-deal

[4] http://ecrgroup.eu/week_ahead/22nd-26th-june-2015-brussels/#more-12172

[5] http://www.alde.eu/nc/press/press-and-release-news/press-release/article/juncker-plan-investments-will-enhance-growth-and-help-to-deliver-an-energy-and-digital-revolution/

[6] http://www.greens-efa.eu/eu-investment-plan-14070.html

ALDE is back in its kingmaker seat in the EP

The findings based on the factual analysis of the data are sometimes counter-intuitive to some.  Since we started looking at the dynamics in the European Parliament in early 2009 we have revealed a number of state of facts which may have otherwise gone unnoticed. One of these is the fact that, in certain circumstances, it is not only the size of a parliamentary group that is instrumental in pushing through decisions of one’s choice. When none of the political groups holds a majority and the balance of power between the two big blocks at the left and the right is almost equal, the small groups may make the difference. This is particularly the case of the small group(s) who have a high coalition potential, i.e. who find it easy to swing between the center-left and the center-right.

In the case of the European Parliament, this parliamentary group is ALDE. One year after the elections, ALDE seems to have got back in its kingmaker seat at the table of the European Parliament. Although only 4th biggest now, ALDE has won more votes in the EP plenary than any other group. It is closely followed by the two ‘giants’, EPP and S&D, while the rest of the groups are far behind.

This result is made possible by the strategic position that ALDE holds at the center of the political spectrum, which allows it to make coalitions easily with either the S&D or EPP. In fact, ALDE votes in virtually equal proportions alongside EPP or S&D, as the graph below shows.

ALDE coalition partners

During the first 6 months of the new EP term, the European People’s Party (EPP) was the group that had won most votes, but in the following months the Liberal-democrats improved their score and surpassed the EPP, against the background of more votes on the environment, civil liberties and gender issues, where ALDE sides more often with the left.

chart (6)

So far, the ALDE group has won 90.16% of the votes, the EPP won 87.02% and the S&D group won 86.82% (out of almost 1.000 votes cast in the EP between July 2014 and June 2015). The scores are very similar to what we’ve seen in the previous EP term.

Read related article: The make-up and break-up of the EU ‘grand governing coalition’

 Where does the ALDE group hold the keys to power?

The liberals have won most votes in policy areas like budget (95%) development (94%), civil liberties justice and home affairs (91%), economic and monetary affairs (90%), constitutional and inter-institutional affairs (89%).

However, a key policy area where ALDE won very few votes is internal market and consumer protection (50%), though the sample of votes from this area is yet relatively small (24 votes).

Some important votes have already taken place during the first year of the 8th parliamentary term and in some of these, the Liberals were able to make the difference in the outcome of the vote (i.e. if they had voted the other way, the outcome would have been different too). Here are some examples.

ALDE and the left have sent EU-Canada PNR agreement to the Court of Justice

On security vs. privacy issues, ALDE votes more often alongside the leftist groups in the EP. In November 2014, the European Parliament approved a resolution tabled by the ALDE group asking for the EU-Canada agreement on the transfer of Passenger Name Records (PNR) to be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an opinion on whether it is compatible with the EU treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights before voting on the new agreement.

The resolution passed by 383 votes in favour, 271 against and 47 abstentions. The Liberals were able to secure the support for the proposal from the left-leaning groups (S&D, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL) and some of the EFDD Members. The EPP and ECR groups decided to vote against the resolution, as they considered that the PNR agreement should be enforced at the soonest, to fight against terrorism and international crime.

Graph PNR EU-Canada

ALDE and the center-left pushed for mandatory labelling of meat in ready meals

On Environmental and public health issues as well, the Liberals frequently ally with the Socialists. For instance, ALDE put its weights behind a non-binding resolution saying that the indication of the country of origin should be made mandatory also for meat used as an ingredient in processed foods, like for example lasagna. The text was supported by a center-left coalition made by the S&D group, the Greens and the GUE/NGL groups plus the Conservatives of the ECR and the Liberals. The EPP was split with a majority of its Members voting against. With this text, the MEPs called on the Commission to propose new legislative proposals in order to rebuild the confidence of consumers after the horsemeat scandal of 2013.

The Christian-democrat group decided to vote against the resolution because it was of the opinion that the labelling of country of origin would lead to significant increase in costs production and that these costs would be imposed on consumers.

Meat labelling

ALDE and the center-right defeated the call for the promotion of collective bargaining

Another example of the role of kingmaker of the liberal group is the vote on a provision included in a resolution dealing with the employment and social aspects of the Economic Semester procedure. On this occasion, a specific call submitted by the radical-left for the promotion of collective bargaining did not rally enough support, being narrowly voted down by a center-right majority.

Collective bargaining

Notably, on employment issues the ALDE group usually makes coalitions with the center-right groups EPP (85.11% of the votes) and ECR (70.21%). The same applies to votes related to industry, research and energy issues. In those ones, the Liberals are also more inclined to vote with the conservatives (80%) and the Christian democrats (75%).

ALDE and the center-right make room for deregulation

ALDE supported together with the center-right a statement that backed the European Executive’s approach to withdraw from the legislative process those bills that are considered obsolete or that are suspected to add too much administrative burden on the institutions and businesses operating across the EU. The statement was part of an own-initiative EP report dealing with green growth opportunities for SMEs.

Backing approach against red tape vote

ALDE plus the left-of center groups push through binding energy efficiency target

In June 2015, the leftist groups plus the liberals have been able to push through, by a narrow majority, a paragraph (paragraph 32) stating that “a binding energy efficiency target would be the cost-efficient way to reduce Europe’s energy dependency”. The paragraph recalled that the EP adopted the 2030 three binding targets (energy efficiency target of 40 %, a renewables target of at least 30 % and a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 40 %). The statement was adopted by 354 votes in favour, 337 against and 8 abstentions.

Energy strategy, binding targets

The paragraph was included in a resolution on the EU energy security strategy which was eventually rejected by the MEPs at the final vote. Consequently, the votes on these separate provisions have only a symbolic meaning.

Liberals’ position is key on decisions regarding shale gas exploitation

In another separate vote on the same text on energy security, center-right groups, including ALDE, succeeded in rejecting a very strong statement against the possibility to exploit shale gas (amendment 6) . The statement said that the Member States  should “refrain from any shale gas exploration and exploitation activities”. This was rejected by 289 votes in favour, 388 against and 25 abstentions.

Energy strategy, shale gas

However, another amendment (amendment 1) stating that hydraulic fracturing is not a promising technology and urging Member States not to “authorise operations involving the exploration or extraction of unconventional fuels within the EU until this is proven to be safe for the environment, citizens and workers”, was adopted. On this occasion, most Liberals voted with the left-of-center groups and enabled the adoption of the provision by 338 votes in favour, 319 against and 42 abstentions.

Energy strategy, fracturing

For further analysis contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

The influence of rapporteurs on trade and energy dossiers is overestimated: facts and figures

by Doru Frantescu, Director and Co-founder of VoteWatch Europe


Facts & figures: how influent are the rapporteurs in shaping EU dossiers?

In early June, two key documents that the European Parliament was supposed to deal with were effectively ditched: the TTIP and the EU’s energy security strategy. This signals two states of facts: firstly, that the ‘grand coalition’ is a highly over-simplified way of looking at the politics in the European Parliament, a reflex generated by the natural tendency to frame EP politics in the governing coalition vs. opposition coordinates that one is used with at the national level. However, in terms of majority-building dynamics, the EP is a completely different political arena.

Secondly, that the rapporteurs cannot exert substantial influence in the areas where there are big political divisions. The belief that it is the rapporteur that makes and breaks a dossier has been wide spread in Brussels over the years, in the absence of anything that would oppose it. However, this may have been overstated. This analysis shows that the actual rate of success of the rapporteur in the EP plenary is smaller than one would think on divisive issues such as international trade (INTA) and industry, research and energy (ITRE) dossiers.

Fragmentation of power makes the majority unpredictable

Indeed, most of the legislative work is done in the EP committees and the rapporteur is instrumental in this process. However, given the EU-level political system, in which there is no clear and stable governing majority, not anything that comes out of the committee can be considered ‘safe’ to make it through the plenary. The further fragmentation of the political power in the European Parliament after the 2014 elections (i.e. the diminishing of the main groups and the reinforcement of the smaller ones) makes it more difficult to foresee how the plenary as a whole will react to proposals which have passed the committee stage.

The increased unpredictability is generated by the fact that the majority in the committee may not match the one in the plenary. Even though mathematically-wise this may be the case (i.e. the groups are represented more or less proportional at both levels), the MEPs from the same group, but coming from a different country sometimes have a different view. Moreover, the committee background may also influence the voting behavior. For example, EPP MEPs that are members of the ITRE committee may have a less progressive view on higher environmental targets than their group colleagues from the ENVI committee.

The failure to adopt an EP official position on the EU’s energy strategy is a case in point. The report that had been adopted in the committee was under attack from all sides in the plenary and the big groups were unable to find agreement not even within themselves, let alone that the so-called ‘grand coalition’ did not exist. Similarly, the postponement of the plenary vote on TTIP was the result of the inability to find consensus not only among the groups, but even more so within the groups, contrary to what had been agreed in the committee. In the past, there have been other occasions when the rapporterus were so badly ‘beaten’ in the plenary that they preferred their name to be deleted from the report.

In the previous EP term (2009-2014) this was particularly the case of center-left rapporteurs on economic issues, and center-right ones on environment / energy-related dossiers, i.e. those matters in which the majority is usually on ‘the other side’ of the political spectrum. All of these cases suggest that on big political issues, each national delegation is more aware of its own stakes and interests and does not allow the rapporteur (or the shadow rapporteur or coordinator) to call the shots.

Rapporteurs lose 1 in 4 votes on key amendments in the EP plenary

A look at the data is very telling: at the key votes in the plenary (those by roll-call), the rapporteurs have not been on the winning side more often than the ‘regular’ MEPs. On average, the rapporteur has won 83% of the separate plenary votes cast on their own dossier. However, a closer look by committee shows that there are specific areas where the rapporteur finds it more difficult to pass his/her views, these being international trade (INTA, 71% rapporteur on the winning side), industry, research and energy (ITRE, 71%), and development (DEVE, 77%)[1].


Interestingly, ALDE rapporteurs are doing better at winning votes in the plenary on their own dossiers than the rapporteurs coming from EPP or S&D. This is possible due to the high coalition potential that ALDE has, i.e. the flexibility that this group has in making coalitions to its left or to its right (and the fact that none of the big groups holds a majority on its own).


Read related analysis ALDE back in its kingmaker place.

Many of the requests for roll-call votes are on amendments drafted by the small groups at the fringes, therefore it is more likely that the rapporteur wins these votes easily simply because the big centrist groups oppose them. But what happens when the amendments are drafted by one of the two largest groups, the EPP or the S&D? When the votes are on amendments drafted by the EPP or S&D, the average rate of success of the rapporteur drops to 72%. This score descents even below 50% on INTA (42%) and ITRE dossiers (42%), on highly political matters that devise the center-right and the center-left. Other areas where the rapporteurs find it difficult to win this kind of votes in plenary are employment (54%), fisheries (57%), transport (70%), and environment (78%).


There have been cases of preeminent rapporteurs from the biggest groups who were defeated by the plenary vote on quite a few amendments. Spanish socialist Ayala Sender, for example, has been defeated in 19 out of 20 (roll call) votes on amendments drafted to his dossiers[2] by the political groups at plenary stage. Italian People’s Party Rivellini has found himself in a similar position, winning only 2 out of 28 separate roll call votes on his dossiers[3] in the plenary. Elisa Ferreira[4] (S&D, Portugal) and Elmar Brok[5] (EPP, Germany and the current head of the foreign affairs committee) have won only just over half, 52%, of the separate plenary votes on their own dossiers).

This data is from the 2009-2014 term, as there have not yet been enough votes for a representative sample to be analysed in the current term. However, the elections in 2014 have fragmented even further the power in the EP, and therefore majorities are now harder to ‘guess’ and to build, without a comprehensive ex-ante analysis of the positions of the key (but also the other) national delegations. These other delegations may not necessarily have the rapporteurship, shadow or the coordinator position, but if they have the right numbers they may effectively undermine the report from the inside or outside of the political group, if they are not happy with it.

For more information, contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.


[1] Data from 2009-2014 European Parliament term.

[2] Ms Ayala Sander drafted reports mainly on policy areas such as budgetary control (CONT) and industry, research and energy (ITRE).

[3] Mr Rivellini drafted reports mainly on policy areas such as fisheries (PECH), budgetary control (CONT) and budget (BUDG).

[4] Ms Ferreira drafted reports mainly on economic and monetary affairs (ECON).

[5] Mr Brok drafted reports mainly on policy areas such as foreign and security policy (AFET) and on constitutional affairs (AFCO).

EP majority still favourable to TTIP & reformed ISDS, but negotiations will take longer than expected

by Doru Frantescu, Director and co-founder of VoteWatch Europe 

Our main take-aways from the postponement of the TTIP vote and the analysis of the positions and constraints of the political forces:

– the postponement of the vote was mainly a political, rather than a technical decision;

– a strong majority in favour of TTIP is still there, a narrow one for ISDS too;

– negotiations are unlikely to be finalised within the timeline wished by Jean Claude Juncker, i.e. the end of 2015.


On 10 June, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were supposed to vote their views on how and what the Commission should negotiate with the US government within the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investments partnership (TTIP). However, the vote was postponed, the official reason invoked being that there were simply too many amendments and requests for separate votes, which would have made the voting session lengthy and difficult to follow by the MEPs.

The postponement was decided formally by the EP President, Martin Schulz, upon consultation with the leaders of the political groups, which is in the letter of the EP rules of procedure. More precisely, the rescheduling was decided on the basis of article 175[1], which says that when more than 50 amendments and requests for a split or separate vote have been tabled to a report in plenary, the President may ask the committee responsible to meet to consider those amendments or requests. Unofficially, it seems that the internal splits inside the main center-left group, the S&D, have made its leaders appeal to the EP President, which is affiliated to the same political family, to postpone the vote. The EPP was happy to go along with that. In this article I analyse this event from two angles: firstly, why the postponement happened; secondly, what is likely to happen after all in the EP on TTIP.

Precedents show that TTIP would not have been the longest vote in the plenary

Firstly, the vote on TTIP would not have been the first on which there were very many roll-call votes or separate votes requested. According to EP website, there were 116 amendments drafted to TTIP in plenary and 87 requests for roll-call votes. The EP plenary, however, had voted on dossiers with more roll-call votes. On 5th of February 2014, the EP plenary voted no less than 149 roll-call votes on the dossier A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies and many more separate votes by show of hands. Similarly, on 13th of March 2013, MEPs voted 87 times by roll-call (and many more times by show of hands) on the dossier Decision on the opening of, and mandate for, interinstitutional negotiations on common organization of the markets in agricultural products. In addition, anyone who follows the EP knows that the annual votes on EU budget are always very lengthy and tiresome, even at plenary stage. This makes it clear that the main reason was not simply technical, but rather political.

The ‘EU affairs information market’ was filled with speculations during the week of the plenary, after the main political actors started a blame game by selectively ‘leaking’ information from the inter-group negotiations to the outsiders. A swift survey that VoteWatch conducted in the following days (on its website and social networks) shows what various publics made of all these arguments (based on over 200 answers). The people who are unfavorable to TTIP believe that the EP president is the main ‘responsible’, or the key factor who generated the postponement. With respect to political groups, this public places the blame in relatively close proportions on the two main groups, S&D and EPP.  On the other hand, the group of people who believe that TTIP is a ‘rather positive thing’ also thinks that by far the S&D group was the agent that triggered the postponement, while the other leftist groups have also played a greater role than the center-right groups in suspending the vote.

The postponement of the vote did not necessarily imply the deferral of the debate on TTIP. In this case, the plenary as a whole, and not the EP President, was the decision-making agent. Interestingly enough, the leftist groups would have wanted to still hold the debate, while the center-right was of the opinion that the debate has to take place the same day as the vote, and therefore should be postponed. The center-right won this battle by the narrowest of margins, 183 votes to 181. The difference was effectively made by a few socialist MEPs from Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Romania who broke off from the group line and voted for postponing the debate as well.

A strong majority in favour of TTIP is still there, a narrow one for ISDS

Despite this ‘incident’, the camp supporting TTIP in the EP is still far stronger than the one opposing it. EPP, S&D, ECR and ALDE continue to be largely on the ‘pro’ side and can even afford a reasonable number of MEPs not following the group line (e.g. French and Belgian French-speaking socialists). This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

As it stands, the only way in which TTIP as a whole could be rejected by the EP is if it includes an ISDS which would be considered unacceptable by a majority of MEPs. However, the Commission is aware of this and has come up with the softened version of the mechanism, which gives a stronger say to the public sector. As presented in an older comment, this move has brought about results, effectively ‘charming’ part of the socialist group within which the German delegation seems to be the most convinced. The position of the German SPD delegation is the key for three reasons: it is the junior coalition partner in Merkel’s government in the country whose population is the least convinced so far about the benefits of the TTIP; it is the second largest in the S&D group; it gives the EP rapporteur on TTIP, Bernd Lange.

The disputes within the socialist group on ISDS were foreseeable already 6 months ago, when the group decided to abstain on a reference to ISDS in EU’s competition policy dossier. All in all, it seems that, at this moment, the currently proposed form of the ISDS has a majority in the European Parliament, but this is fragile and there is a long way to go. Having learned the lesson from the dismissal of ACTA in 2012, the Commission will not want to risk sending to the EP an agreement as long as there is even a small chance of failure. Even the adoption with a small margin would be dangerous, given the big size of the deal and its implications and the fact that it will have to be implemented in the Member States.

Read our full mapping of the MEPs’ positions on TTIP and ISDS.

Consequently, the Executive and the supporters of the reformed ISDS have more work to do to convince the public opinion, particularly in key states as Germany and Austria (where the support for TTIP is the lowest). If the supporters of ISDS can achieve that (which is far from being certain), that would serve as a solid basis for a larger majority of the S&D group to vote in its favour (though this will not be the case of the ‘most leftist’ factions of group). If no significant progress will be observable in this direction as the TTIP negotiations reach the final stages, then the investor’s protection clause will be considered too risky to include in the document that will be sent for approval to the MEPs.

All this means that there are a lot of issues still to be addressed, which makes it unlikely that the negotiations can be finalised within the timeline wished by the European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, i.e. the end of 2015.

For more information, contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

[1] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+RULES-EP+20150428+RULE-175+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN&navigationBar=YES 

What prospects for the new far-right EP group ?

by Doru Frantescu


Ahead of the EU elections in 2014, in an article published by the Economist, we predicted that it was unlikely that a new far-right group could be formed (or last for long) in the European Parliament. The basis for the prediction was that there are deep divisions between the parties that were supposed to make it up, combined with the small number of Members and nationalities that it can maneuver with. This was confirmed after the elections.

The same considerations apply now, when Front National seems to have gathered the Members to finally form an EP group (to be called Europe of Nations and Freedom). Even if Marine Le Pen finds the right numbers, the group will remain very fragile and is likely to implode rather sooner than later.

The main partner of Front National in this endeavor is its Dutch counterpart, the PVV. However, despite the shared dislike of EU institutions and immigration, there are big differences between the two, chief among these being that PVV is generally a free-market oriented party, while the FN is highly protectionist.  The analysis of the EP voting records of the two parties is revealing: FN and PVV have had a common line on only 57% of the votes in the current EP term (comparatively, the regular matching score between national delegations in the mainstream / centrist groups is around 90%).

Beyond the political views, there are the personalities of their leaders. The political capital of the far-right parties is usually highly dependent on the charisma of their leaders. For this reason, the leaders are used to always get their way, which usually works inside his/her own national party, but much less so when you have to make a stable political grouping with other leaders of the same personality type. Recent EP history is a case in point: a similar group, called Identity, Tradition, Suveranity (ITS) was formed at the beginning of 2007, but was unable to celebrate even its one-year birthday, imploding as a result of severe disagreements and even insults. On the other hand, the financial incentives are high (17.5 million euros for this group from the EU funding, throughout the remaining 4 years of the EP term), which may act as a strong incentive to ‘stay in line’.

Whether as a group or not, the far-right forces and the other moderate or radical euro-skeptic groupings will continue to play a role in the overall politics of the European Parliament, particularly when the big mainstream groups are unable to reach consensus. Due to the fragmentation of power after the 2014 EU elections (i.e. bigger groups becoming smaller, while the smaller groups were reinforced) the process of majority building is more difficult and the results of votes are harder to predict. This was already observable in 3 key instances, when the EP as a whole was unable to adopt a position: the Commission’s working plan for 2015, the Energy security strategy and the postponement of the vote on TTIP in June 2015.

Merkel’s MEPs want to consider sending arms to Ukraine, but leftist majority rejects

by Doru Frantescu


In a report of the European Parliament on the military situation in the Black Sea area, some Members supported an amendment asking that the possibility of providing Ukraine with defensive arms should be considered, if Russia does not fully implement the Minsk ceasefire agreements (par. 16/3).

This strong statement generated severe disagreements, dividing the MEPs on both ideological and national lines. Notably, all MEPs coming from Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance supported the idea. Conversely, all MEPs coming from their coalition ally in the German government, the social-democrats (SPD), voted against it. This development illustrates the deep divisions within the German Government on what the best course of action should be in response to the rising geo-political tensions on the EU’s Eastern frontier.  Continue reading

How will MEPs shape EU copyright law?

By Doru Frantescu, Director and co-founder of VoteWatch Europe 

Last review: 19 June 2015.

This article discusses how the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are likely to shape the new EU copyright laws. We show that the conflict within the society between those who consume and those who create digital content has been transposed in the European Parliament in the struggle between the political forces on the classical left-right axis. We predict that the “pro open content camp” will gain the upper hand and will push for a softening of the regime of copyright throughout the EU, such as the abolition of geo-blocking and territoriality principle. We map the MEPs’ positions by ideology and country and show that, while the ideology is the main predictor of an MEP’s vote, the country of origin also plays a role (e.g. the French Members of the Socialist group have a position more in favour of protection of cultural property than the rest of their group colleagues, while the British Labour are more in favour of free market and protection of property in general, compared to their continental colleagues). 

On 9 June, the report drafted by the Chair of the Legal Affair Committee Pavel Svoboda (EPP – PL) on Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement was voted during the EP plenary session in Strasburg and was approved (with 529 votes in favour and 143 against).

On 17 June, the report drafted by the German Pirate Party’s Julia Reda proposing major changes to copyright laws in the EU has been adopted by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee (JURI) after it spent several hours voting on 550 amendments. (23 votes in favour, 2 against). The report will now be voted on by the full European Parliament on July 9, where more amendments could be made. The final text will then be sent to the European Commission, which will use it as input for a legislative proposal on copyright reform, expected to appear by the end of the year.


In May, the European Commission put forward the long-awaited guidelines for a digital strategy. The Pandora’s Box is now open and the Commission will take on board reactions from various segments of the society and politicians.

While there is a large consensus that going digital is the way forward, some of the areas have raised a high level of controversy. Perhaps chief among these is the approach to copyright, on which the Commission has announced plans to follow up with legislation before the end of 2015. Intellectual property seems to be one of the most hotly debated areas and which lines up impressive lobby efforts on both sides of the reform. Continue reading

Survey results: S&D group and EP president seen as instrumental in postponing TTIP vote

VoteWatch conducted a swift survey following the postponement of the vote on TTIP, which was scheduled to take place on 10 June. We wanted to see what various publics make out of the whole range of speculations on who were the decisive political players that led to this development. Over 200 people answered our questions via our website and social media networks. Here is what we found:

42% of the people answering the survey were of the opinion that the S&D group was decisive for the postponement of the vote. 32% said that the EP President, Martin Schulz, was the key factor in this development, while 20% thought this was EPP (more than one answer per respondent was allowed).



Those unfavorable to TTIP say EP President was the leading factor

However, the order changes among the people who also said that they see TTIP as a ‘rather bad thing’. This group believes that Martin Schulz played the leading role. From among the political groups, S&D and EPP are seen as the ‘main responsible’. Notably, 24% of this public thinks that other factors have also been decisive, such as the pressure from segments of the society.


Those favorable to TTIP are much more likely to find S&D as ‘responsible’

People who believe that TTIP is a ‘rather good thing’ are much more likely to also think that the internal issues of the S&D group generated the postponement. This public is also of the opinion that the other leftist political groups, Greens/EFA and GUE-NGL have played a leading role  in this decision, rather than the center-right groups.


Related analysis: How will the MEPs vote on TTIP ?