The EU parliamentary session of late October 2017 was definitely rich in political developments. Politicians fought over who should get how much of the EU money, over the rules for fertilisers and, in an interesting turn of events, a majority ultimately agreed to a prolongation of the use of glyphosate. Each of the new rules on the protection of whistle-blowers was fought tooth and nail, with just a few votes making the difference every time. There was political support for a trade deal with Australia and New Zealand, but key MEPs are not on board (yet).
This special report looks into the power dynamics that lead to the making (or unmaking) of key decisions of the EU, and indicates which political parties, national delegations or individual politicians are decisive or have an "odd" behavior. This is what we discovered:
Behavior and success rates of the political groups
Given the very disputed votes, all groups have found it more difficult to be on the winning side compared to the previous parliamentary sessions. The ALDE group succeeded in remaining the main kingmaker, having been on the winning side in 91% of the decisions (despite being only the 4th largest). The Socialists won 89% of the votes, while the EU largest political group, the EPP, only 82%. The Socialists, however, lost key votes in an area very important to them, employment (62% success), while EPP's lower rate of success is due to the group suffering notable defeats on internal market rules (69% success) and environment (50%), where a leftist-liberal coalition got the upper hand. Nationalist groups' success rate was much lower (below 30%).
EPP, on the other hand, was the most cohesive (disciplined) group this time (95% cohesion), closely followed by the Socialists (94%). The Greens (87% cohesion), who were the most cohesive in the previous two plenary sessions, suffered internal divisions especially when it came to voting on international trade, but also, remarkably, when regulating environmental policy.
The Socialist EU Parliamentarians were the most interested in taking part in the votes (89% participation), just above the EPP and the Greens (both at 87%). ALDE's participation was particularly low this time (81%).
Below are the key observations by subject:
Environment and Public Health:
- The proposal on fertilizers took a toll on the internal cohesion of the biggest EP parliamentary group. Its chair, Manfred Weber, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was caught between a rock and a hard place.
- Two Eastern European delegations strongly disapproved of the new rules on fertilizers. A former prime-minister's spouse voted against the official position of her party (and in favour of the new rules).- Some S&D members opposed their group's official position which was to to delay the ban of glyphosate by two years.
- The EU Parliamentarians of a Central European country whose government will soon change were decisive in rejecting the establishment of funds for whistleblowers.
- A small party from Germany gave (more than) a hand to the left to defeat Merkel’s party on a key vote on the protection of whistle-blowers.
- A senior MEP, who is close to Commission’s President Juncker, backed the inclusion of stricter rules in favour of whistle-blowers, against the official position of her European group.
Economic Policy and Budget:
- EU Parliamentarians of a leftist group did not back the establishment of an EU authority fighting against tax evasion, despite being very vocal on the matter in the media.
- Only a few members of the EPP sided with the farmers on a proposal aiming at increasing agricultural funding. The granddaughter of a famous chief of state voted against the proposal, then retracted.
- Two parties in government in Central and Eastern Europe, which are otherwise critical of further EU (economic) integration, did endorse strengthening EU’s defense capabilities.-----------------------
- A highly influential EPP Member, with farming background, went against his group and may lead the opposition against the trade deal with Australia and New Zealand, on grounds of insufficient protection of European farmers.
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