Winners and losers of the EP Plenary December 2017

Highlights of this ‘Christmas edition':

– ‘United Front for the Salvation of the Single Market’ shapes up (i.e. for a tough position on Brexit negotiations) across the EU political forces;

– French EU Parliamentarians lead the opposition to a proposed pan-European broadcasting of TV shows and movies;

– The ‘anti-kebab’ coalition loses battle to ban an additive from this popular dish by just 4 votes – some German EU parliamentarians have been decisive in swinging the vote around;

– the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and Malta were 1 vote close to be considered tax heavens. The votes of several British MEPs saved the day for them. However, Brexit (and hence the departure of these British MEPs), is getting close;

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The last plenary of the year featured a key vote by the Members of the European Parliament on the progress of the Brexit negotiations. We observed a high degree of unity among the main pro-European forces, which are rallying behind the tough negotiating strategy set by Michel Barnier (European Commission) and Donald Tusk (European Council). A large majority of MEPs (81%) clearly stated that the UK will not be able to have the cake and eat it, e.g. no special access to the EU internal market without accepting the same obligations as the EEA and EU members (i.e. regular payments to the EU budget, acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ECJ and acceptance of freedom of movement of people). This vote showcases the unity among the EU27 on the Brexit negotiations.

However, apart from Brexit, there were other interesting votes that caught our attention. Some political forces tried to ban certain food additives that are found in kebabs,  issue a call to recognize four EU Member States as tax havens and water down a Commission’s proposal on the online broadcasting of TV shows and movies. 

This report reveals which individual MEPs have been decisive in swinging the final outcome of these key decisions.

Please note that this analysis is part of the VoteWatch Intelligence PRO series, which is a paid service. Exceptionally, this particular ‘Christmas edition’ is free for all. However, if you want to have access to this series in 2018, drop us an email at [email protected] and we will get back to you with a membership offer. 

French MEPs lead the opposition to a proposed pan-European broadcasting of TV shows and movies

Right-leaning groups managed to water down a proposal by the Commission aiming at overcoming national barriers in the European digital sphere. The initial text tabled by the Commission would have allowed European broadcasters to transmit audiovisual content across border, as long as this complies with the copyright obligations of the broadcasting state.

The proposal by the Commission was ill-received by national groups that are strongly protectionist on cultural matters, such as the French and the Italian ones. Out of 68 voting French MEPs, only 5 supported the proposed scheme, namely the French Greens (with the exception of José Bové who voted against it).

Opposition to the Commission’s proposal also came from the largest delegation within S&D, the Italian Democratic Party. However, the leader of the S&D group, Gianni Pittella, disagreed with the nationalist way of thinking of his Italian colleagues and supported the proposed pan-European broadcasting system.

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For more information about how the Digital Single Market is being shaped in the European Parliament, check out our assessment on the most influential MEPs on digital issues, as well as our exclusive interview of key MEPs on encryption and anonymising tools

EU Parliamentarians split in half on whether Malta, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland are tax havens

Within a report calling for concrete actions against money laundering, an amendment by S&D to demand the Commission to regard Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and Malta as EU tax havens was rejected by a tie! Half of the voting MEPs, 327, voted to consider these EU countries as tax havens, whereas the other half voted that there are no solid ground for the EU to blacklist some of these Member States.

The proposal was rejected by all Maltese and Luxembourgish MEPs (with the exception of Claude Turmes, who abstained), whereas Irish and Dutch MEPs were more divided. Interestingly, the Dutch Labour Party supported the proposal to recognize their own country as a tax haven, despite being part of the Dutch government until a couple of months ago.

Despite of the support by the S&D group for considering these countries as tax havens, some British Labour MEPs decided to vote against the proposal, therefore swinging the final vote. Labour MEP Seb Dance, Neena Gill and John Howarth rejected the call to regard Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and Malta as tax havens. This also indicates that once the British MEPs leave as a result of Brexit, the majority will change in favour of those calling for these countries to be considered tax heavens.

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‘Anti-kebab’ front missed its objective by 4 votes 

An initiative by the left to block a Commission proposal allowing the use of phosphates-based elements in frozen vertical meat spits did not rally enough support among the EU Parliamentarians. According to the MEPs drafting the objection, there are serious concerns surrounding the negative health effects of phosphates used as food additives. In order for the objection to succeed, 377 votes were required, and the ‘anti-kebab’ was short of 4 votes (they rallied only 373 Parliamentarians on their side).

The support by a large coalition composed of ALDE, the left wing groups and the far-right was not enough to ban the use of phosphates-based additives in this type of meat. The defections of some German MEPs from ALDE and S&D were decisive in swinging the final outcome of the vote. For instance, all the German Liberals supported the proposal by the Commission to allow the use of these substances, with the exception of the newcomer Wolf Klinz.

Interestingly, all Greek and Cypriot MEPs voted to ban the use of these additives,  with the exception of Cypriot Lefteris Christoforu (EPP), who decided to abstain.

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Our previous study on the positions of EU Parliamentarians on food regulation showed that the German Liberals are less keen on a “nanny state” approach than their ALDE colleagues. Tired of being surprised by votes’ outcomes? At VoteWatch Europe we can help you forecast the legislative future (for more information contact us at [email protected]). 

Does the withdrawal of the US open the door to a stronger Japan-EU partnership

VoteWatch Europe had the honor to discuss with His Excellency Kazuo Kodama, Ambassador of Japan to the EU, about the future direction of the partnership between the EU and Japan. While the US and the UK are sliding towards stronger protectionism, Japan and the EU are trying to take the lead in driving global economic integration. 

In this exclusive interview, Ambassador Kodama shares his views with us on the potential benefits of the FTA between the EU and Japan, the impact of Brexit on UK-Japan relations, the response to North Korea’s military program, as well as the current status of the TPP negotiations.

Catalan MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras is one of the most loyal members of the Greens/EFA Group

We often focus on MEPs whose voting behaviour often diverge from the positions of their political groups (such as Sirpa Pietikainen and Claude Rolin, both from the EPP). However, in this case we focused on an MEP who almost always agrees with his political group. Josep-Maria Terricabras (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) fully endorses the progressive agenda of Greens on environment, social policy, international trade and many other policy areas (he is ranked 10th of all MEPs in term of loyalty, according to our statistics).

However, in a few cases, MEP Terricabras diverged from the line of the Greens/EFA group, namely when his engagement for Catalonia was at odds with the stances adopted by his fellow Green colleaguesCheck out our comprehensive report to discover more!

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