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European Union Basics (FAQ), Part3/8

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                                         EU Basics FAQ: The European Parliament
   Personal note: you will notice that in all EU institutions, there is an
   asymmetry between the number of inhabitants of member states and the number
   of representatives they have in the various institutions (e.g. one
   Commissioner for 300,000 Luxemburgers compared to two for 80 million
   Germans). This is a compromise between the supranational principle of
   one-inhabitant-one-vote and the intergovernmental principle of
   one-government-one-vote, and thus an illustration of the general ambiguity
   between supranational and intergovernmental principles that so characterizes
   the European Union.
How is the European Parliament composed?

   The European Parliament represents the peoples of the member states. It is
   elected once every five years, through direct universe suffrage in every
   member state.
   The last general EP election was held on 9 and 12 June 1994. The next will
   be in June 1999, although Austrians, Finns and Swedes have to elect MEPs
   earlier because their countries had not joined the EU in 1994 yet. Up to
   these elections, MEPs for these countries are appointed by national
   parliaments. In Sweden these elections already took place. Hiski Haapoja[1]
   mentions that for Finland, these elections will take place in October 1996
   together with municipal county elections.
   There are currently 626 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs):
      99 elected in Germany;
      87 each in France, Italy, the UK;
      64 in Spain;
      31 in the Netherlands;
      25 each in Belgium, Greece, Portugal;
      22 in Sweden;
      21 in Austria;
      16 each in Denmark and Finland;
      15 in the Republic of Ireland;
      6 in Luxembourg.
   MEPs don't usually vote by country of origin. Instead, they organize in
   political groups according to ideology and/or party affiliation. The minimum
   number of MEPs to form a political group is 29 if the members come from one
   member state, 23 if they come from two, 18 if they come from three and 14 if
   they come from four or more member states. No MEP can be a member of more
   than one political group, but no MEP is under an obligation to be part of a
   political group either (even though it does bring advantages in speaking
   time and infrastructure).
   Some MEPs call themselves associate (rather than +full;) members of a
   political group; this reflects the fact that they are not bound by the
   common manifesto/platform of the pan-European political party behind the
   group, usually because their national party is not a member of this
   pan-European political party. This difference is irrelevant as far as
   internal Parliamentary procedures are concerned.
   See the list of member states[2] in the first part of this FAQ for an
   overview of ISO country abbreviations used below. Links have been added to
   the official or unofficial home pages of some parties; please drop me a
   line[3] if you know any I did not include.
      Leader: Ms Pauline Green (Labour, UK)
      217 members:
  62                     Labour (UK)[4]
  40                     Socialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (DE)[5]
  22                     Partido Socialista Obrero Espaqol[6] (ES)
  16                     Partido democratico della Sinistra (IT)  [7]
  15                     Europe Solidaire (Parti Socialiste) (FR)
  10                     Partido Socialista (PT)[8]
  10                     Panellinio Socialistiko Kinima (GR)  [9]
  8                      Partij van de Arbeid (NL) [10]
  8                      Sozialdemokratische Partei Vsterreichs (AT)[11]
  7                      Socialdemokratiska arbetarepartiet (SE)[12]
  4                      Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue (FI)[13]
  3                      Parti Socialiste[14] (BE)
  3                      Socialdemokratiet (D[15]K)
  3                      Socialistische Partij (BE)[16]
  2                      LSAP - d'Sozialisten (LU)
  2                      Partito socialista italiano-Alleanza democratica
  1                      Labour Party (IE)[18]
  1                      Social Democratic and Labour Party (UK)
      Leader: Mr Wilfried Martens (Christelijke Volkspartij, BE)
      172 members:
  39                     Christlich-Demokratische Union[19] (DE)
  28                     Partido Popular (ES)[20]
  18                     Conservative and Unionist Party (UK)  [21]
  13                     Union pour la Dimocratie Frangaise/Rassemblement pour
                         la Ripublique* (FR)
  10                     Christendemocratisch Appel (NL) [22]
  9                      Nea Demokratia (GR)  [23]
  8                      Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (DE)
  8                      Partito popolare italiano (IT)
  6                      Vsterreichische Volkspartei (AT)[24]
  5                      Moderata samlingspartiet (SE)[25]
  4                      Christelijke Volkspartij (BE)  [26]
  4                      Fine Gael (IE)
  4                      Kansallinen Kokoomus (FI)[27]
  3                      Konservative Folkeparti (DK)  [28]
  3                      Patto Segni (IT)
  2                      Chrkslich-Sozial Vollekspartei (LU)
  2                      Coalicisn Nacionalista (ES)
  2                      Parti Social-Chritien (BE)
  1                      Christlich Soziale Partei (BE)
  1                      Partido Social Democrata* (PT)
  1                      S|dtiroler Volkspartei (IT)
  1                      Ulster Unionist Party (UK) [29]
   The Union for Europe Group was formed in October 1995 as a grouping of two
   formerly separate parliamentary groups: the Forza Europa group consisting of
   the sole Forza Italia party and the traditional +Gaullist; Group of the
   European Democratic Alliance. Through this merger, they replaced the Liberal
   group (ELDR[30], cf. infra) as the third biggest group in the European
      Leader: Mr. Jean-Claude Pasty (Rassemblement pour la Ripublique, FR)
      55 members:
  29                     Forza Italia (IT)[31]
  14                     Union pour la Dimocratie Frangaise/Rassemblement pour
                         la Ripublique* (FR)
  7                      Fianna Fail[32] (IE)
  3                      Centro Democratico Social/Partido Popular (PT)
  2                      Politiki Anixi (GR) [33]
      Leader: Mr Gijs de Vries (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, NL)
      52 members:
  8                      Partido Social Democrata* (PT)
  5                      Lega Nord (IT)
  6                      Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (NL)  [34]
  4                      Democraten '66 (NL) [35]
  4                      Suomen Keskusta (FI)
  4                      Venstre[36] (DK)
  3                      Parti Riformateur Libiral/Front Dimocratique des
                         Francophones (BE)
  3                      Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (BE) [37]
  2                      Centerpartiet (SE)[38]
  2                      Convergencia y Unio* (ES)
  2                      Liberal Democrats (UK)  [39]
  2                      Svenska Folkpartiet (FI)
  1                      Demokratesch Partei (LU)
  1                      Folkpartiet liberalerna (SE)[40]
  1                      Independents (IE)
  1                      Liberales Forum (AT)[41]
  1                      Partito reppublicano italiano (IT)
  1                      Radikale Venstre (DK)
  1                      Union pour la Dimocratie Frangaise/Rassemblement pour
                         la Ripublique* (FR)
      Leader: Mr Alfonso Puerta Gutierrez (Izquierda Unida - Iniciativa per
      Catalunya, ES)
      33 members:
  9                      Izquierda Unida (ES)
  7                      Parti Communiste (FR)
  5                      Rifondazione comunista (IT)
  3                      Vdnsterpartiet (SE)[42]
  3                      Coligagao Democratica Unitaria (PT)
  2                      Kommounistiko Komma Elladas (GR)  [43]
  2                      Synaspismos tis Aristeras kai tis Proodou (GR) [44]
  1                      Socialistisk Folkeparti (DK) [45]
  1                      Vasemmistoliitto (FI)
      Leaders: Ms Claudia Roth (Die Gr|nen, DE) & Mr Alexander Langer
      (Federazione dei Verdi, IT)
      28 members:
  12                     B|ndnis 90/Die Gr|nen (DE)  [47]
  4                      Miljvpartiet de grvna (SE)[48]
  3                      Federazione dei Verdi (IT)
  2                      Green Party[49] (IE)
  1                      Agalev (BE)  [50]
  1                      Dii Gring GLEI-GAP (LU)
  1                      Ecolo (BE)
  1                      Groen Links (NL)  [51]
  1                      Gr|ne - Die Gr|ne Alternative (AT)[52]
  1                      La Rete-Movimento democratico (IT)
  1                      Vihred Liitto (FI)[53]
      Leader: Ms Cathirine Lalumihre (Energie Radicale, FR)
      19 members:
  13                     Energie Radicale (FR)
  2                      Panella-Riformatori[54] (IT)
  2                      Scottish National Party (UK)[55]
  1                      Convergencia y Unio* (ES)
  1                      Volksunie/Vlaamse Vrije Democraten (BE)
      Leader: Mr Jimmy Goldsmith (Majoriti pour l'autre Europe, FR)
      19 members:
  13                     Majoriti pour l'autre Europe (FR)
  2                      Folkebevfgelsen mod EF (DK)
  2                      Junibevfgelsen (DK)
  2                      Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij[56]/ Gereformeerd
                         Politiek Verbond[57]/  Reformatorisch-Politieke
                         Federatie[58] (NL)
  10                     Alleanza nazionale (IT)
  11                     Front National (FR)
  5                      Freiheitliche Partei Vsterreichs/Die Freiheitlichen
  2                      Vlaams Blok (BE)
  1                      Democratic Unionist Party (UK)
  1                      Front National (BE)
  1                      Partito socialista democratico italiano (IT) [59]
   The long list above is represented more concisely in the following table:
AT    8    6    -    1    -    1    -    -    5   21
BE    6    7    -    6    -    2    1    -    3   25
DE   40   47    -    -    -   12    -    -    -   99
DK    3    3    -    5    1    -    -    4    -   16
ES   22   30    -    2    9    -    1    -    -   64
FI    4    4    -    6    1    1    -    -    -   16
FR   15   13   14    1    7    -   13   13   11   87
GR   10    9    2    -    4    -    -    -    -   25
IE    1    4    7    1    -    2    -    -    -   15
IT   18   12   29    6    5    4    2    -   11   87
LU    2    2    -    1    -    1    -    -    -    6
NL    8   10    -   10    -    1    -    2    -   31
PT   10    1    3    8    3    -    -    -    -   25
SE    7    5    -    3    3    4    -    -    -   22
UK   63   19    -    2    -    -    2    -    1   87
TOT 217  172   55   52   33   28   19   19   31  626

What are the powers of the European Parliament?

   Richard Corbett[60] provided me with this excellent rewritten and extended
   section on the powers of the European Parliament:
       +The powers of the European Parliament vary considerably from one p
     olicy area to the next. In some policy areas it is significantly lack
     ing in power compared with the position of national parliaments in fu
     nctioning democracies, whereas in other areas, it virtually forms par
     t of the bicameral legislature together with the Council. The procedu
     res are as follows (all beginning with a proposal from the Commission
  Consultation procedure:
                         Parliament is simply asked to give its opinion, and
                         Council takes the decision. However, Council must wait
                         for Parliament's opinion and any parliamentary
                         amendments that are accepted by the Commission can
                         only be modified in Council by unanimity;
  Co-operation procedure:
                         two readings in each body (Council and Parliament),
                         the first as under the consultation procedure, the
                         second allowing Parliament to adopt further amendments
                         or to reject Council's text (in which case Council can
                         only approve it by overruling Parliament unanimously
                         within three months);
  Co-decision procedure:
                         two readings in each body followed by a conciliation
                         committee if their positions still diverge. If the
                         conciliation committee agrees on a compromise, both
                         Council and Parliament have to approve it. If
                         conciliation fails, Council may adopt a text
                         unilaterally, but this text will not become law if
                         Parliament rejects it within six weeks;
  Assent procedure:      Parliament's approval required (in a single reading
                         with no amendments) for a measure to be adopted by
  Budget procedure:      two readings in each body with Parliament having the
                         final say over some items and Council over others.
                         However, neither can go beyond a certain rate of
                         increase without the approval of the other, and
                         Parliament can reject the budget as a whole.
       In the second reading of the cooperation or codecision procedures,
     Parliament is constrained by the requirement to obtain a majority of
     its members to amend the Council position or to reject it. In other w
     ords, abstentions or absences do not count: 314 of the 626 members mu
     st vote in favour of the amendment or rejection.
       Given the inevitable absenteeism of at least some members at any gi
     ven moment, this requirement has the effect of obliging Parliament's
     political groups to negotiate broadly based compromises: something th
     at probably makes political sense anyway when dealing with the Counci
     l, which is composed of ministers from a variety of different politic
     al backgrounds according to the majorities  and coalitions in the Mem
     ber States.
       Only under the codecision procedure and the assent procedure does P
     arliament have an absolute right of veto which cannot be overriden by
      the Council (even by unanimity). The codecision procedure applies to
      about a quarter of the total volume of European legislation going th
     rough Parliament. This includes most single market legislation, the r
     esearch programme, environmental programmes, consumer protection legi
     slation, programmes in the field of public health and education and t
     ranseuropean networks.
       In the other procedures, Parliament remains somewhat dependent on t
     he position adopted by the Commission. If the Commission accepts Parl
     iament's amendments to its proposals and incorporates them in a modif
     ied proposal to the Council, the latter needs unanimity to remove the
      amendments, whereas a qualified majority will normally be enough to
     adopt the proposal as a whole.
       Despite Parliament's weakness in the cooperation procedure - where
     it can ultimately be overruled by Council - a large proportion of its
      amendments under this procedure still gets through. In his excellent
      work on the European Parliament, Martin Westlake[61] puts forward  a
      grand total of all the 322 proposals dealt with under the co-operati
     on procedure up to 30 December 1993.
                        First reading             Second reading
European Parliament     4572 amendments tabled    1074 amendments tabled
European Commission     2499 (54,65%) taken up     475 (44,22%) taken up
Council of Ministers    1966 (43%) accepted        253 (23,55%) accepted
                                           [Source: Westlake 1994, p265]

       In looking at these figures, and seeing that only half of Parliamen
     t amendments end up in the final legislation, two things should be bo
     rne in mind. First, the other branch of the legislative authority - t
     he Council - is also democratically elected, albeit indirectly, as ea
     ch of its members belongs to an elected national government.
       Secondly, the executive (in this case the Commission) is rather wea
     k compared to most national executives (governments). Its proposals r
     arely get through Parliament and Council without substantial amendmen
     ts -unlike the situation in many national parliaments. In absolute te
     rms, the number of amendments put into legislation by the European Pa
     rliament is far greater than many national parliaments."
   There is another area in which the EP's powers have risen considerably.
   Since the Maastricht Treaty,[62] the European Parliament must approve both
   of the President of the Commission and of the Commission in full. It can
   also make the Commission resign with a 2/3 majority. It cannot sack
   individual Commissioners.
   The newly elected EP of 1994 has interpreted this decision as such that it
   has the right to question all individual candidate Commissioners thoroughly
   (modelled on the US Senate +hearings; for candidate government ministers)
   before approving of the new Commission as a whole. The new Commission
   president has accepted this interpretation in practice; hearings have taken
   place from 16 to 20 January 1995, and the Commission president has had to
   make some changes to and supplementary promises about the portfolios of his
   fellow Commissioners as a result of the hearings, before his Commission was
   approved with a 417 against 104 majority.
Who is the President of the European Parliament?

    MEPs elect the President (or chair) of the European Parliament and his/her
   bureau from their midst, with a mandate of two and a half years. Subsequent
   EP presidents since the first direct elections were:
  1979-1982              Ms Simone Veil (LDR[63], France)
  1982-1984              Mr Piet Dankert (PES[64], Netherlands)
  1984-1987              Mr Pierre Pflimlin (EPP[65], France)
  1987-1989              Sir Henry Plumb (Conservative, UK) [Tory MEPs were in
                         the former European Democrats group during Lord
                         Plumb's presidency; in 1992 they followed their former
                         European Democrats group partners, and joined the
                         EPP[66] group.]
  1989-1992              Mr Enrique Baron Crespo (PES[67], Spain)
  1992-1994              Mr Egon Klepsch (EPP[68], Germany)
  1994-1997              Mr Klaus Hdnsch (PES[69], Germany)
Where can I find the European Parliament on the net?

   Many of the civil servants working at the European Parliament have an email
   address with a gateway to the Internet, in the; zone. MEPs
   and their assistants are less likely to be reachable. You could try to ask
   the <> for a specific person's email address.
   The European Parliament is currently preparing its own WorldWideWeb presence
   on the Internet. Up to now, there are only the following electronic
   information services which are not available on the Internet:
      News and general press information is available in the menu-based EPISTEL
      system, available via X.25 and PSTN. Subscription is free for accredited
      journalists; others pay ECU 100/month. Information: tel.+32.2.2842128,
      fax +32.2.2305808.
      EPOQUE is a documentary database produced by the European Parliament. Its
      first objective is to make information easily accessible internally, but
      it is also intended to provide information on the EP activities to the
      outside world. Access is free, but requires previous registration; EPOQUE
      is available through PSTN in Luxembourg and through X.25. Information:
      fax +352.439317.
                               Edited by Roland Siebelink & Bart Schelfhout[70]
                                           corrections and suggestions welcome.
   [Go to Table of Contents][71]

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