What future for Poland? Special VoteWatch analysis

(click here for the version in Polish).

On 25th of October the Polish citizens will decide what future they want for their country. Their choice will undoubtedly impact the rest of Europe too: Poland is the 6th largest Member State (out of 28) and has one of the fastest growing economies on the continent. Moreover, apart from the UK, Poland is the largest non-eurozone member and holds a key geostrategic position at the EU’s border with the troubled Ukraine.

The positions that the Polish government will have in the following years on issues such as economic and political union, foreign and security policy, energy policy, environmental agenda, asylum policy and other key topics may shift the balance of power in the EU Council in one direction or the other. The upcoming Polish elections will determine which positions Poland will take on these important fields.

The infographic below shows the similarities and the differences between the views of the two leading competing parties, shaping two alternative scenarios for the future of Poland – the winner will impose its views as the “position of Warsaw” in Europe.


This infographic has two main sections: one that summarises the electoral promises made in Poland during the current campaign. To see the details of the programme of the Civic Platform click here. To see the details of the programme of the Law & Justice click here.

The second one shows the actual voting behaviour of the Members of the European Parliament belonging to the Civic Platform (EPP) and Law & Justice (ECR). To check the details of these votes, please access this Annex.


For more information or data on European politics contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

Manfred Weber (EPP) vs. Gianni Pitella (S&D): allies or rivals?

Manfred Weber and Gianni Pittella are the leaders of the two biggest political factions in the European Parliament, the groups of the European People’s Party and of the Socialists and Democrats, respectively.

Many observers have argued that there are few differences between the views of these two, a situation which acts as a disincentive for the European citizens to come to vote, since they can’t see why an option is better than the other. Or, voters decide to support more radical parties, whose positions are clearer and easier to communicate to the general public.

We have looked into the behavior of these two leaders in the current and past EP terms to spot where they agree and where they disagree on key topics that shape European politics today. This is what we found.

Note: for checking the details of the votes, please see the annex at the bottom of this article.

Weber vs Pittella 30 Sept 2015 final

ANNEX: links to the votes mentioned in the infograph.

For more information or data on other Members of the European Parliament, contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu.

Strong EP majority prepares harmonisation of EU elections’ rules

The Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament adopted by a large majority (14 votes in favour, 5 against, 3 abstentions) a report asking for the reform of the electoral law of the European Union for the next EU elections of 2019.  The draft report has been prepared by two rapporteurs, which are part of the two main EU political groups, Danuta Hübner (EPP -PL) and Jo Leinen (S&D-DE), and will be put to vote in the EP plenary at the end of October.

The Treaty[1] gives the European Parliament the right to initiate a reform of the European electoral law by formulating proposals, which the Council will have to decide upon by unanimity. Then, the amendments to the European Electoral Act are submitted for ratification to the Member States according to their constitutional requirements.

With the proposed reform, the rapporteurs aim at increasing the democratic dimension of the European elections and reinforcing the Union citizenship. They wish to improve the functioning of the European Parliament, make the work of the Institution more legitimate and providing for more electoral equality among the citizens of the Union.

The proposals are meaningful and in line with the Members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) efforts to make the elections more European. It is highly significant that the report has bipartisan support (centre-right and centre-left), which means that (almost) all those politicians in governments of the member states will be lobbied by their own party colleagues (MEPs) to support the harmonisation.

Among other innovations, the draft resolution proposes to place the names and the logos of the European political parties on the ballot papers and on posters and other electoral materials in order to improve the visibility of the EU political parties.

Moreover, the reform recommends setting a common minimum deadline of 12 weeks before election day for the establishment of lists at national level and the introduction of a mandatory threshold, ranging between 3% and 5%. The goal is to avoid further fragmentation in the EU Parliament.

The AFCO report also suggests that a common deadline for the nomination of lead candidates by European political parties should be set 12 weeks in advance of EU elections and that the citizens of the EU who reside in a third country be granted the right to cast their vote in the EP elections.

The harmonisation of the minimum age of voters at 16, the possibility of electronic and internet voting as well as voting by post and to give to Parliament the right to fix the electoral period for elections to the EU Parliament after consulting the Council are other proposals put forward by the report.

Doru Frantescu, director & co-founder of VoteWatch Europe, has stated that “if adopted, the rules will be a big leap forward towards “Europeanisation of the European elections”, which until now have been seen as “second-order national elections”. It is precisely because these elections are seen as secondary that the new rules may actually get some traction in the Council, as the national politicians may feel that they don’t give away too much.”

The biggest issue which will face opposition in the Council is the nomination of a leading candidate (for the Presidency of the Commission) by the European political parties, which has no chance of passing in the current composition of the Council, which includes prime-ministers Cameron and Orbán, who opposed Juncker’s nomination. If Law&Justice wins the Polish elections, they will also reinforce the opposing camp. However, if the text will not specifically say “candidates for the European Commission Presidency”, but simply “leading candidates”, this would still have a chance.

Secondly, there is the issue of the electoral thresholds, which will be disputed in countries such as Germany, where the Constitutional Court has abolished the threshold for the European elections. However, if the new rules will be stated in an EU law, the position of the Court is likely to be different.

“Last year, with the eventual appointment of President Juncker as head of the Commission, the EU Parliament has shown that it can be truly powerful when there is a strong majority behind a decision, so this Hübner-Leinen report has to be taken seriously. On the other hand, this time around (unlike in the case of Juncker’s appointment) the Council will decide by unanimity, which is a completely different thing. Consequently, at this stage we can expect that the softer changes may eventually go through, but not the big ones”, has said Frantescu.

Positions of the political groups:

European People’s Party group (EPP): Danuta Hübner MEP, Chairwoman of the committee and co-author of the Report said that: “My overall goal was to make these elections more attractive for EU citizens, especially for the youth and those with reduced mobility”. The Christian-democrat group, which is the EU political family of President Juncker and Chancellor Merkel, believes that the European dimension of the EU elections must be strengthened in order to bridge the gap between the EU Institutions and the citizens[2].

Socialists & Democrats group (S&D): Jo Leinen MEP, co-author of the Report, claimed: “We want to ensure the functioning of the European Parliament, which is threatened by too many mini-parties.[3]” “The next European elections in 2019 will be more transparent, more democratic and more attractive with the submitted reform of the European election law,” he added.

[1] Article 223 (1) oTFEU

[2] http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/EPP-Group-favours-online-vote-for-next-European-elections-


Do values topple nationality in the European Parliament?

Providing a wealth of data in an accessible format, VoteWatch Europe monitors voting patterns in the European institutions. For our latest European View, co-founder and director Doru Frantescu answers this million-Euro question.

The political parties from across the European continent have formed transnational political families, based on their values. The ‘internationalisation’ of political parties started in the late nineteenth century, but it was brought to a completely new level once the European Parliament (EP) came into existence, as the parties then had the chance to compare their views and negotiate their positions on the same policy dilemmas at the same time.

The pan-European parties have long been considered mere consultative bodies, rather than decision-making ones. Power has always remained in the hands of the national party chiefs and the heads of state. Traditionally, the leading political figures within the EU institutions, whether commissioners or MEPs, have been seen as following instructions from their party bosses back home.

But the aftermath of the 2014 European elections may indicate a change of direction. Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EP has become bolder, not only when negotiating legislation, but also when appointing the EU’s chief executives. MEPs have been able not only to create a united front among themselves, but also to rally support among their colleagues at national level using the structures of the European parties. Ultimately, they submit their candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.

Read full article in the latest edition of European Views.

Majority of EU Parliamentarians endorse the relocation of an additional 120,000 asylum seekers. Conservatives, Far-right and UKIP oppose

EU Parliamentarians endorsed an emergency proposal to relocate 120.000 asylum seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary to other EU Member States. This EU Commission proposal was published on 9 September to respond to the unprecedented arrival of refugees and migrants at EU’s borders.

The text was adopted by 370 votes in favour, 134 against and 52 abstentions. This time again, the majority supporting the proposal included the socialist group S&D, the radical left group GUE/NGL and the group of the Greens together with the Christian-Democrats (EPP group) and the Liberal and Democrat members (ALDE group). The Conservatives of the ECR group opposed it alongside the far-right group of Marine Le Pen (ENF) and the British members of the EFDD group.

In the EPP group, the Hungarian party members of Prime Minister Orbán voted against or did not vote on the relocation scheme and most of the Polish delegation, the party of Council President Tusk, abstained. Other national delegations from the eastern Member States (Romania, Latvia and Slovakia) have also deviated from the position of the majority in the EPP and voted against or abstained.

Click here to see how each MEP voted.

The new proposal to relocate 120.000 asylum seekers adds up to the previous scheme to relocate 40.000 refugees which was endorsed by the EU Parliament at the beginning of September and adopted by the EU ministers of Home Affairs during their last Council meeting.

The proposal underlines the urgent need to respond to the current high-volumes of arrivals of migrants within the EU. Therefore, to deal with the situation in the Member States most under pressure, the Commission is launching this emergency response.

The majority of the members of the EU Parliament gave their support to this additional mandatory relocation system that is based on a number of objective criteria like the size of the population, the GDP, the average number of past asylum applications and the unemployment rate. (Click here to see the proposed allocation quotas by Member State.) Moreover, the new scheme includes a financial contribution to assist the Member states participating.


However, the proposed legislation also enables a Member State, in exceptional circumstances, not to take part in the relocations of the asylum seekers. The country will have to make instead a financial contribution to the EU budget.

This vote sends a strong and clear signal to EU Home Affairs ministers. The Justice and Home Affairs Council will meet again on 22 September. On this occasion, the Ministers will have to decide on this second emergency scheme. Moreover, European Council President Tusk announced another emergency summit of EU leaders on the refugee crisis for the 23rd of September.

Position of the Political groups:

Mr Weber, Chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP), the political family of President Juncker, said that “The European Parliament has sent a strong signal today that we are ready to tackle the refugee crisis and support the fairer distribution of civil war refugees between EU Member States in a solidary manner”. He added also that for them it is clear that not everyone who want to come to Europe can come and stay and therefore they want for the protection of the external borders to be strengthened[1].

The President of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Mr Pittella criticized the behavior of some Member States. He claimed that “In the last Council meeting, an irresponsible minority of national governments showed reluctance to accept the relocation of 120,000 refugees across Europe however the overwhelming majority expressed their readiness to take tough decisions and tackle this humanitarian crisis with a common and solidarity based approach.[2]

The Conservative group ECR, the EU political family of UK Prime Minister Cameron and Polish President Duda, said that the “EU Member States need to stop the finger pointing and threats and find a way to work together to find long-term solutions to the migrant and refugee crisis”. The group warned against “forcing the quotas on some countries, fearing that it could build up trouble that will make more permanent actions harder to reach.” They propose that those countries that do not wish to take part in the scheme should be asked to contribute in another way in order to assist the other countries[3].

The Liberal group ALDE of Mr Verhofstadt strongly supports the EU Commission’s proposal for the relocation of 120,000 refugees. The group called for increased solidarity and responsibility sharing between member states and the Liberal members are of the opinion that the European Commission’s proposal enables these demands.

Me Verhofstadt, said: “The ball is now firmly in the court of EU Member States. I hope they come to their senses next week and agree these measures.[4]

The EU political group close to Mr Tsipras, GUE/NGL also supported the new Commission proposal for the relocation of 120.000 asylum seekers. The radical left members called on EU leaders to face up to their responsibilities and find solutions for the influx of refugees and asylum-seekers: “The failure of the Council on migration to provide safe and legal access to refugees fleeing the horrors of war is shameful. We need to ensure that all countries do their fair share to solve this crisis[5].


[1] http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/Refugees%3A-EP-sends-strong-signal-of-solidarity

[2] http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/pittella-thanks-european-citizens-who-showed-eu-council-what-responsibility-and-solidarity

[3] http://ecrgroup.eu/news/kirkhope-an-emergency-relocation-scheme-should-not-be-imposed-if-a-long-term-cooperative-solution-is-to-be-reached/

[4] http://www.alde.eu/nc/press/press-and-release-news/press-release/article/alde-urges-council-to-back-120000-refugee-relocation-plan-45804/

[5] http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/gue-ngl-news/eu-leaders-must-take-more-responsibility-in-migration-crisis

EU Parliamentarians vote in favour of refugees’ binding quotas. The Conservatives and the far right oppose

Against the background of the latest refugee crisis developments, the members of the European Parliament adopted a non-legislative resolution welcoming the EU Commission’s new proposals to deal with the unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees.

The text was adopted by 432 votes in favour, 132 against and 57 abstentions. All the political groups at the left of the spectrum (the socialist group S&D, the radical left group GUE/NGL and the group of the Greens) supported the resolution together with the Christian-Democrats (EPP group) and the Liberal and Democrat members (ALDE group). The Conservative MEPs of the ECR group opposed it alongside the far-right group of Marine Le Pen (ENF) and the British members of the EFDD group (UKIP). Continue reading

EU Parliamentarians propose new rules for future Commissioners’ hearings

A large majority of EU Parliamentarians adopted the non-binding report on the Commissioners’ hearings that took place in 2014. The text was approved by 517 votes in favour, 168 against and 23 abstentions. The majority was made by the pro-EU coalition of the EPP, S&D and ALDE groups along with the Greens. All the other groups opposed the text. The EFDD group was divided between the Italian members, who supported the text, and the British members that voted against it.

Click here to see how each MEP voted.

The MEPs are of the opinion that the checks on declarations of the financial interests of Commissioners designated by the Committee on Legal Affairs should be improved. The text also proposes that each Member State puts forward at least two candidates, a male and a female, for consideration by the Commission President-elect. The MEPs believe it is important that the Union reaches within its own institutions the gender equality objectives which it has set.

The other suggestions included in this report:

– to set a deadline by which all Member States have to put forward their candidates;

– that the written questionnaire sent ahead of each hearing should allow for 7 questions instead of 5, but without sub-questions;

– that it would be better to have around 25 questions at the hearings;

– a periodic review of the priorities referred to by Commissioners-designate following the start of their term of office;

– various rules for the for the coordinators’ evaluation meeting after the hearings;

– that provision should be made to use social media and networks to include EU citizens more effectively in the hearing process.

A united centre-left pushes trough the exclusion of water services from trade agreements. Centre-right splits.

The EU parliamentarians adopted a non-legislative resolution in favour of the “Right2Water” initiative. The text was approved by 363 votes in favour, 96 against and 231 abstentions.

The majority in favour of the text included the Socialists, the Greens, the Radical Left and the Italian delegation of the EFDD group (5-Star Movement). On the other hand, the majority of the Christian Democrats (EPP group) abstained, together with the Liberals and democrats (ALDE group). Over 40 EPP MEPs, however, voted in favour of the text. These come from Spain, Austria and South of Germany (Bavaria).

Continue reading

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.