EU political families fail to reach consensus on what the Commission should do in 2015


© European Union 2014 Рsource:EP

As this vote has just shown, the European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, will have a hard time building majorities in the European Parliament: the EU legislative was unable to reach a common position with regard to the plans put forward by the Executive for 2015.

In a dramatic display of power play, the political groups voted down each other’s proposals one by one. The first text put to vote was the one proposed by the largest political group, the EPP. This was giving full backing to the Commission’s proposed legislative agenda for this year. The EPP, which is also the group of Jean Claude Juncker, supported Commission’s plans to reduce the bureaucratic burdens and the introduction of mandatory impact assessments of all new legislation on SMEs. EPP also positioned itself strongly in favour of a comprehensive TTIP agreement (between the EU and the US). EPP’s document was, however, voted down by a combination of left and radical right opposition.

The text proposed by the ALDE group didn’t stand a chance either. Then, the much more critical resolutions proposed by the Greens/EFA and the S&D groups seemed to gain momentum, as some of their amendments mustered a majority, particularly calls against the allegedly proposed plans of watering down the social and environmental agenda, through cancelling certain EU laws or the TTIP. However, at the final vote these documents were rejected too by the other groups, which cancelled the victories on separate amendments. The same happened with the resolutions proposed by the remaining political families.

All of this means that the European Parliament as an institution effectively does not have a view on what the European Commission is planning to do in 2015. The use of the ‘nuclear option’ by the political groups, ie. the preference of not having a position at all, is very uncommon in the EP, where the parties usually reach a common denominator. However, this time around the views were simply too far part.

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 harder life in the Parliament. The new balance of power in the EP makes it harder for the Executive to push through 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 has complicated substantially the majority building processes, which inserts an element of unpredictability of the outcome of some the most controversial pieces of legislation expected to be dealt with in 2015.

For example, the opinions on whether the new legislation that concerns emission ceilings or waste management should go ahead were split in almost equal proportions (see votes on amendments 16 and 18). Similarly, it is expected that that the debates over proposals to reduce red-tape and strengthen economic supervision (revision of the 6-pack) will be fiercely disputed and the votes will be too close to call, unless consensus is reached beforehand.

Doru Frantescu is Director and co-founder of VoteWatch Europe, an independent organisation watching the EU decision-making process.

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Far left and nationalist parliamentarians fail to block a strong EU position on the crisis in Ukraine

Ukraine and the EU

Photo from EPA/ Zurab Kurtsikidze

Centrist groups have succeeded in reaching a common position to ask the European Union to send a strong signal of support for Ukraine’s European aspirations. EU Parliamentarians passed a resolution condemning the acts of terrorism and criminal behavior of the separatists and other irregular forces in eastern Ukraine.

The resolution also calls for the continuation of the current EU sanctions regime and takes positive note of the recently adopted additional sanctions on investment, services and trade regarding Crimea and Sevastopol. The text says that the EU won’t back down from sanctions until Russia changes its aggressive behaviour, stops supporting separatists and withdraws its troops.

The recommendation points out that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA) does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine relations. The text underlines that Ukraine has a European perspective and may apply to become a member of the European Union. To enter into force, the AA has to be ratified by the EU member states and newly adopted resolution urges the EU Member States to ratify the AA before the Riga summit.

The communist GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament objected to EU having an active supportive stance towards Ukraine and objected particularly to the alleged criminalization of Ukrainian Communist Party and its ideology. Most of the nationalist Members also voted against EU’s support for Ukraine. However, the final text was carried by an overwhelming majority made up of the Christian-Democrat (EPP) group, the Socialists (S&D), the conservatives (ECR), the liberals (ALDE) and Greens/EFA group.

Notably, a call for the repealing of the Association Agreement was supported, alongside with far left and nationalists, by a Slovakian socialist, a Greek conservative and a Latvian Greens/EFA Member (click here to see how each Member voted on this item). Similarly, a handful of MEPs from the S&D group, coming from Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Germany and the UK voted for lifting the EU sections against Russia, although the overwhelming majority of their colleagues opposed (click here to see how each Member voted on this item).

Interestingly, 6 Italian EPP Members, including former EU commissioner for industry, Antonio Tajani, defected from their  group’s position and showed support for the lifting of the EU sanctions, considering them as politically ineffective and counter-productive (click here to see how they voted).

The main political groups disagreed on one point: the S&D group (along with the far left) asked that further financial assistance to Ukraine be conditioned by a set of measures such as the dissolution of the paramilitary forces fighting on government’s side and immediate democratic control over all security forces in the country. However, the EPP, ALDE and the Greens/EFA found this approach inopportune in the current context and voted down the conditionality. Three Italian socialist MEPs defected from the group line on this matter and also voted against conditionality (click here to see how they voted).

Note: the final vote on the text of the resolution as a whole was not cast by roll-call vote, therefore there is no data to show on how each Member voted.

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Should the EU strenghten its relations with Ukraine ?

Turkish government should stop systematic pressuring of the press, or loose financial assistance, MEPs say

All political families in the European Parliament agreed on a resolution expressing the concern of the EU over the attacks to the freedom of the press in Turkey following the arrests of journalists and media executives at the end of 2014.

In the resolution, the MEPs stated their doubts over real the independence of the judiciary in the country and their worries as regards increasing intolerance towards political opposition, public protest and critical media in the past few years. The text condemns harsh terms the recent detention of journalists and media representatives stressing that these actions call into question the respect for the rule of law in Turkey.

Through the resolution, the MEPs recalled that a free and pluralistic press is an essential component of any democracy and underlined the importance of press freedom and the respect for democratic values in light of the EU enlargement process.

Finally, the resolution urged the Government of Turkey to address media freedom as a matter of priority.

The MEPs adopted with a large majority a paragraph of the resolution stressing that “the Instrument for Pre Accession Assistance (IPA II) for the period 2014-2020 sees the introduction of enhanced coherence between financial assistance and the overall progress made in the implementation of the pre-accession strategy, including full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms”. The paragraph was adopted by 551 votes in favour, 11 against and 31 abstentions (coming mainly from nationalists).

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the resolution.

Note: the final vote on the text of the resolution as a whole was not cast by roll-call vote, therefore there is no data to show on how each Member voted.

MEPs endorse the European Ombudsman’s call for more transparency

The MEPs overwhelmingly approved the resolution on the European Ombudsman Annual report for 2013 by 527 votes in favour, 21 against and 82 abstentions.

All the main EU political groups voted in favour of the resolution. The ECR and EFDD groups were split. In the ECR group, the Polish and German delegations voted in favour, whereas the British conservatives abstained. While in the EFDD group, the Italian 5 Stars Movement voted in favour and the British UKIP abstained.

The European Ombudsman investigates the complaints about maladministration in the institutions and bodies of the European Parliament. Emily O’Reilly (Ireland) had become the new EU Ombudsman since October 2013, replacing Nikiforos Diamandouros (Greece).

In the resolution, the EU parliamentarians approved the 2013 annual report presented by the European Ombudsman, congratulated Ms O’Reilly on her first annual report and welcomed her new approach. In fact, the EP gives its support to the new ultimate goal proposed by the Ombudsman which Is to help strengthen the structures and institutions accountability and transparency at EU level in order to promote good administration and improve quality of democracy in the Union. The MEPs have also endorsed the EU Ombudsman’s call for more transparency and information campaign on the TTIP talks.

Moreover, the resolution stresses the importance of social media as channel of communicationto to raise public awareness of the activities of the Ombudsman and to promote the rights of EU citizens and notes that transparency related issues once again topped the Ombudsman’s list of inquiries closed in 2013 (64.3 %), up from 52.7% in 2012.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the resolution.

November 2014 EP plenary Newsletter: Motion of Censure, EU-Canada PNR deal, Digital Single Market, and more

In this edition:

1. Juncker Commission easily survives its first big test in the EP
2. The EU-Canada PNR agreement sent to ECJ by the left, ALDE, eurosceptics
3. Large EP majority pushed through a stronger stance on the post-2015 development agenda
4. EPP, S&D, ECR requested Commission’s diligence in settling search engines market
5. EPP, ALDE, Greens/EFA voted to strengthen ECB’s authority to impose sanctions

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Juncker Commission easily survives its first big test in the EP

The Motion of Censure on the EU Commission, tabled by 76 EFDD and non-attached MEPs, was rejected by 101 votes in favour, 461 against and 88 abstentions. The number of MEPs voting against the motion, and thus in favour of the Commission, was higher than the number of MEPs who have voted in favour of the appointment of Juncker’s Commission in October 2014.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on the resolution.

Motion of Censure

(The see how the MEPs voted on the appointment of Juncker’s Commission in October 2014 click here.)

The motion of censure was based on the so-called Luxleaks affair and the state aid investigation that the European Commission is conducting into the tax arrangements applied to companies in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Some MEPs claimed that Mr Juncker is in a controversial position, since during these alleged corporate tax avoidance schemes he was prime minister of Luxembourg.

One of the main roles of the EU Parliament is to scrutinise other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, to make sure they are working democratically. As part of the parliamentary control process, the EP can call on the Commission to resign during its period in office through the motion of censure.

It is not the first time that a Commission is threatened by a motion of censure: eight such votes have taken place in the history of the European Parliament. The latest to date was the one on the Barroso’s Commission in 2005 which had also been tabled by the Eurosceptic MEPs. At that time, the motion had been easily defeated by the biggest EU groups.

Perhaps the most known case is, however, that of the Santer Commission, which eventually had to resign in 1999 even before a vote in the EP, after a corruption scandal was linked to one of its Commissioners.

To be adopted, the motion needs to reach two-thirds of the votes cast and a majority of all MEPs. This has never happened so far.

The EU-Canada PNR agreement sent to ECJ by the left, ALDE, eurosceptics

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 PNR agreement was signed by the EU Council of Ministers and Canada on 25 June 2014, but in order to enter into force it needs the consent of the Parliament.

The resolution passed by 383 votes in favour, 271 against and 47 abstentions. The left-leaning groups (S&D, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL) and the right wing eurosceptics supported the proposal (the EFDD group was split). The conservative 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

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