Special highlights from EU decision making: Caged animals, vaccines, EU-UK, biodiversity, State aid, rule of law


This special briefing includes our latest observations regarding the politics behind EU policies on the following subjects:

NB: the Commission pays attention to the size of EP majorities not only when voting on legislation, but also when own-initiative reports are being passed in the preparatory stages, hence the Commission is likely to shape the actual upcoming legislative proposals in line with these political majorities to avoid complications.

Importantly, the positions of some MEPs do change between the indicative votes on own-initiative reports and the decisions on the actual legislation, potentially turning a minority into a majority or the opposite. In order to forecast which MEPs/parties might swing (and which hold strong/stable views), use our influence matrices (or contact us at [email protected]).


Animal welfare

The latest votes on the non-binding EP resolution concerning caged animals in EU farming provide an opportunity to assess the current positions of MEPs and the balance of power among political groups on several parts of this initiative.

Foie gras under significant pressure: a narrow majority of MEPs (+68 MEPs) puts pressure on the European Commission to take action against force-feeding of animals for the production of foie gras. In this case, the positions of MEPs follow in part political lines (the left voting against the production of the foie gras, while the right is in favour), but also national lines (for example Spanish and Romanians side with the French, while Nordics push against the production of the foie gras).

As noted, the majority on this subject is slim for the time being, but enough to put pressure on the Executive and create public debate.

Find the position of each MEP here.

Proposals for phasing out the use of cages in animal farming by 2027 are narrowly short of a majority (-77 MEPs). Despite counting on the support of the left-wing groups and some of the more moderate members from right-leaning political groups (such as influential members of the French governing party and some Belgian and Finnish members from the EPP), the pro-phasing out campaign remains short of enough political support. The opposing campaign, animated by the farmers, can rely on enough support from among the centre-right groups, including most Renew MEPs.

Find the position of each MEP here.

However, the final text of the resolution does include a request for assessing the possibility of phasing out the use of cages in EU animal farming by 2027, passing the responsibility onto the European Executive. This request was supported by a broad majority.

Find the position of each MEP here.


Patents of COVID-19 vaccines

The latest votes on COVID-19 vaccines confirm VoteWatch’s forecasting, with the final resolution passing by a relatively narrow majority (+92 MEPs). Several proposals remain even more divisive, with the final outcome of some votes being decided by only a handful of MEPs.

Every vote counts: the proposal to support text-based negotiations for a temporary waiver of the WTO TRIPS Agreement in the context of the COVID-19 vaccines currently has a majority of just one MEP. This confirms VoteWatch’s analysis concerning the very tight majorities when it comes to the waiving of vaccines patents, as was the case on the previous vote (May 2021). Notably, support for waiving the WTO TRIPS Agreement mostly stems from The Left, Greens/EFA and S&D, whose numbers are not enough to secure a majority. However, divisions within Renew and ECR (and to a much smaller extent EPP) play to the advantage of the left-leaning coalition and allow them to be on the winning side of this proposal. Stakeholders should pay particular attention to the pivotal role played by French MEPs from Macron’s governing party, as well as Polish MEPs from PiS, as their alignment with the S&D coalition is crucial for securing such a narrow majority. Additionally, it should be noted that many MEPs associated with other national governing parties are still strongly opposing any waiver on COVID-19 vaccines (including Dutch VVD and CDA, German CDU/CSU, or Czech ANO 2011), pointing towards remaining divisions in the Council.

Find the position of each MEP here.

At the same time, while the campaign supporting a temporary waiver of COVID-19 vaccines is able to garner enough political support on several divisive proposals, it is, however, unable to secure a strong enough push for making said vaccines a common good (-25 MEPs). This difference in the final outcome of the vote can notably be explained by the fact that, while French Renew MEPs support the temporary waiver of COVID-19 vaccines, they are joining the EPP in opposing vaccines as a public good. This outcome is in line with VoteWatch’s previous measurements, which forecast a higher level of support for waiving vaccines patents, but insufficient support for making said vaccines a public good. While this month’s proposal received a higher level of support compared to the previous vote on the same issue (April 2021), this is also partly explained by the slightly softer phrasing of the latest proposal.

Find the position of each MEP here.

Interested in EU health policy? Our influence matrix will show you how influential MEPs are, and in which direction each MEP is pulling EU legislation. You can find the updated version here.


EU Biodiversity strategy

The votes on the own initiative report concerning the EU’s biodiversity strategy provide an opportunity to assess the current political trends and positioning of MEPs on several key topics. As is the case with environmental initiatives, stakeholders should keep in mind that many proposals in this area are decided by very narrow majorities, making it essential to pay attention to the (re)positioning of even smaller (sub)factions and individual MEPs.

For instance, a narrow majority of MEPs (+36 MEPs) is pushing for a legally binding biodiversity governance framework, i.e. a ‘biodiversity law’. Important geographical divisions, both within Renew Europe and the EPP Group, reflect once again the importance of paying attention to the positioning of specific delegations within their political families. Concretely, Renew members from North-Western Europe (Scandinavia, Netherlands or Germany amongst others) are opposing the call for a biodiversity law. In parallel, divisions within the EPP group play at the advantage of the left-leaning coalition, allowing them to be on the winning side of the proposal at this time. Notably, members from France, Belgium, or Slovakia (amongst others) are joining the call from The Left, Greens/EFA and S&D to develop legislation on biodiversity governance at the EU level.

Find the position of each MEP here.

Another divisive proposal, with similar dynamics, concerns the implementation of binding targets on the restoration of forests. This initiative currently has a narrow majority behind it (+ 76 MEPs), consisting of the left-wing and some Renew members. Importantly, MEPs from the EPP group are playing a key role, with several delegations (notably from France, Romania, Slovakia or Belgium) joining the more left-leaning coalition and backing binding targets on deforestation. In light of this, stakeholders should keep in mind the importance of understanding the positioning of smaller (sub)factions and individual MEPs will make the difference. Indeed, even within the same political group, such as Renew or the EPP, we observe very different voting behaviours amongst MEPs.

Find the position of each MEP here.

To learn more about coalition building dynamics on EU climate policy, including how to identify the most influential MEPs and the pivotal voters, join our executive webinar on the European Commission’s ‘fit for 55’ package on Thursday 17th of June at 10:00-10:30 (Zoom).


Foreign affairs: qualified majority in the Council

The latest votes on the own-initiative report concerning the UN General Assembly provide an excellent opportunity to assess the current political trends and positioning of MEPs on a particularly divisive subject: the rule of qualified majority voting in the Council. Ending unanimity in foreign policy decisions in the Council is supported by the centrist groups (S&D, Renew, EPP, Greens/EFA), resulting in a rather large majority (+255 MEPs). This change would remove the use of vetoes on foreign policies votes, making it simpler for the EU as a whole to issue positions on foreign affairs and security matters. Importantly, while most MEPs from governing parties tend to support the proposal (including from Macron’s party or Merkel’s CDU/CSU amongst others), others are taking an opposing stance.

This is notably the case with Orbán’s MEPs from Fidesz, Polish members from PiS, Italian MEPs from Salvini’s Lega, but also the Greek EPP delegation and, to a lesser extent, the Danish Social-Democrats. In line with VoteWatch’s previous observation that Hungary and Poland find themselves in minority the most in the Council compared to other Member States (in recent years), this would point towards increasing rifts between the Western and some of the Eastern EU countries. However, foreign policy positioning sometimes does surface differences even among Western European countries, like those that regard the Middle East (Israeli-Arab disputes).

Find the position of each MEP here.

Interested in EU foreign policy? Our influence matrix will show you how influential MEPs are, and in which direction each MEP is pulling EU decisions. You can find our updated tool here.


EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)

The Parliament’s own-initiative report on the EU competition policy notably provides an opportunity to assess the positioning of political groups on the EU-UK trade agreement. Importantly, a relatively large majority of MEPs (+167 MEPs) seems to consider that the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) does not provide a level playing field regarding State aid and competition. Such concerns are linked to the fact that the UK is no longer part of the EU competition policy, and as such could provide enhanced support to its own companies, increasing their relative competitiveness vis-à-vis European enterprises. With few divisions observed within the political families, the EPP and ID group find themselves quite isolated as they are unable to get support from other groups.

While it is rather unlikely that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement would be renegotiated at this point, this vote confirms our previous findings on the increasing divide among EU political factions on the future trade relations with the UK. Whith the main political families at the EU level maintaining a united front during the Brexit negotiations, current discussions increasingly mirror the patterns that we observe when MEPs vote on international trade matters. Similarly, we expect increasing disagreements in the Council, as governing parties push for contrasting approaches. Notably, while Macron’s party supports stronger coordination between the EU and UK on state-aid, German CDU/CSU is more supportive of the current arrangement.

Find the position of each MEP here.

Interested in EU trade policy? Our influence matrix will show you how influential MEPs are, and in which direction each MEP is pulling EU legislation. You can find our updated tool here.


State aid

The Parliament’s own-initiative report on the EU competition policy also provides important insights when it comes to State aid within the European Union itself.

The campaign to mainstream industrial, digital and green strategies in setting the future conditions for State aid currently holds only a small majority (+53 MEPs). While this coalition being formed by the Greens/EFA, S&D and Renew, the narrow outcome of the vote can notably be explained by the abstentions within The Left, even though this “loss” was partly compensated by the gain of a few EPP members, including Belgians and Irish.

Find the position of each MEP here.

Another disputed vote concerns the alignment of all EU competition and State aid rules with EU long-term objectives, in particular the European Green Deal. An even narrower majority of MEPs (+41 MEPs) is pushing that the Member States should also make State aid conditional to the EU’s climate objectives. On this proposal, The Left is aligned with Greens/EFA, S&D and Renew Europe in supporting the initiative. While Irish and (to a lesser extent) Belgian EPP members are also in favour of aligning climate objectives with State aid, there is no support for this initiative within the other right-wing groups, namely ECR and ID. Importantly, opponents include MEPs associated with ruling national parties, including from German CDU/CSU amongst others, which would point towards this proposal being received less positively in the Council.

Find the position of each MEP here.


Rule of law: European Parliament vs. Commission

The latest vote on the EU’s rule of law situation provides us with an indication of the new approach taken by the European Parliament on the matter. MEPs seem to be hardening their position on the application of the “Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation”, sending a message not only to the Commission but also to the Member States themselves. Following a first resolution put forward in March 2021, the European Parliament pressured the Commission to address the rule of law situation in Poland and Hungary before the 1st of June 2021. With no further measures taken by the Commission, this month’s final vote marks the approval by MEPs of a potential court case against the institution.

While we observe a strong level of support (+356 MEPs) for such an initiative, in line with the similar dynamics observed on the previous related vote, important divisions should be highlighted. It is rather insightful to note the support for this initiative of some delegations that belong to parties that have been criticised with regards to rule of law in the past. For instance, members from Czech ANO 2011, or Romanian Partidul Social Democrat are all in favour of the proposal. We do observe a strong level of support amongst MEPs from governing parties, meaning that we can expect such push to be also supported by a relatively high number of Member States in the Council.

Find the position of each MEP here.


For more information, training, consultancy or media relations, contact us at [email protected]