¬© European Union 2014 – source: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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