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Subject: European Union Basics (FAQ), Part3/8

This article was archived around: 22 May 2006 04:35:55 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: european-union/basics
All FAQs posted in: talk.politics.european-union, eunet.politics, alt.politics.ec
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Archive-name: european-union/basics/part3 Posting-Frequency: once every three weeks URL: http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html
+ NB READERS OF THIS TEXT VERSION: + The original and most recent version of this file is always available + on the world-wide web. If you have Web access, please consider viewing + it there at the URL mentioned above. EU Basics FAQ: The European Parliament [questionsabout...] 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? DIRECT UNIVERSAL ELECTIONS 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. GENERAL COMPOSITION 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. PES/GROUP OF THE PARTY OF EUROPEAN SOCIALISTS [LOGO PES] 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 (IT)[17] 1 Labour Party (IE)[18] 1 Social Democratic and Labour Party (UK) EPP/EUROPEAN PEOPLE'S PARTY (CHRISTIAN-DEMOCRATS) 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] UE/UNION FOR EUROPE GROUP 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 Parliament. 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] ELDR/GROUP OF THE EUROPEAN LIBERAL, DEMOCRATIC AND REFORMIST PARTY 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) GUE/CONFEDERAL GROUP OF THE UNITED LEFT - NORTHERN GREEN LEFT 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) GRN/GREEN GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT[46] 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] ERA/GROUP OF THE EUROPEAN RADICAL ALLIANCE 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) EN/EUROPE OF NATIONS GROUP 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) NI/NON-ATTACHED MEMBERS 10 Alleanza nazionale (IT) 11 Front National (FR) 5 Freiheitliche Partei Vsterreichs/Die Freiheitlichen (AT) 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: PES EPP UE ELDR GUE GRN ERA EN NI TOT 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 Council; 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? EMAIL CONNECTIVITY Many of the civil servants working at the European Parliament have an email address with a gateway to the Internet, in the +gw.europarl.org; zone. MEPs and their assistants are less likely to be reachable. You could try to ask the <postmaster@gw.europarl.org> for a specific person's email address. DATABASES AND INFOSYSTEMS 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] *** References from this document *** [1] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr [2] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/general.html#memberstates [3] mailto:eubasics@allmansland.com [4] http://www.poptel.org.uk/labour-party/ [5] http://www.spd.de/ [6] http://www.civing.carleton.ca/SiSpain/politics/parliame/socialis.html [7] http://www.pds.it/pds.htm [8] http://www.partido-socialista.pt/ps/ [9] http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/umponti0/politics.html [10] http://www.pvda.nl/ [11] http://www.spoe.or.at/ [12] http://www.sap.se/ [13] http://www.tky.hut.fi/~oodi/SDP/SDP-homepage.html [14] http://sga.ulb.ac.be/pinstall/legis_95/ps/index.htm [15] http://gress.lo.dk/socdem/dk/historie/english/index.htm [16] http://www.sp.be/ [17] http://www.socialisti.it/ [18] http://194.106.128.3/labour/index.html [19] http://www.cdu.de/ [20] http://www.docuweb.ca/SiSpain/politics/parliame/popular.html [21] http://www.conservative-party.org.uk/ [22] http://www.dds.nl/overheid/pdc/678/351/35165.html [23] http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/umponti0/politics.html [24] http://www.oevp.co.at/oevp/ [25] http://www.moderat.se/ [26] http://www.cocacola.be/cvp/ [27] http://www.kokoomus.fi/kokoomus/ [28] http://www.dis.dk/dis/org/kons/index.html [29] http://www.uup.org/ [30] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#ldr [31] http://www.forza-italia.it/ [32] http://www.iol.ie/fiannafail/ [33] http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/umponti0/politics.html [34] http://www.dds.nl/overheid/pdc/678/354/35451.html [35] http://www.xs4all.nl/~d66ned/d66menu.html [36] http://www.venstre.dk/ [37] http://www.eunet.be/vld/ [38] http://www.centerpartiet.se/ [39] http://www.libdems.org.uk/ [40] http://www.one.se/liberty/LUF/fphome.html [41] http://www.lif.co.at/lif/ [42] http://www.kiruna.se/kommun/partier/v/v.html [43] http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/umponti0/politics.html [44] http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/umponti0/politics.html [45] http://molly.sf.dk/ [46] http://www.axl.be/green/ [47] http://www.gruene.de/ [48] http://www.angelfire.com/free/miljopartiet.html [49] http://www.iol.ie/resource/green/index.htm [50] http://box.eunet.be/./agalev/ [51] http://www.dds.nl/~groen-l/ [52] http://www.t0.or.at/gruene/ [53] http://www.vihrealiitto.fi/ [54] http://www.riformatori.stm.it/ [55] http://www.snp.org.uk/ [56] http://www.dds.nl/overheid/pdc/678/351/35153.html [57] http://www.dds.nl/overheid/pdc/678/351/35152.html [58] http://www.dds.nl/overheid/pdc/678/351/35176.html [59] http://www.fpoe.or.at/fpoe/ [60] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr [61] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#mwestlake [62] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/general.html#maastricht [63] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#ldr [64] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#pes [65] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#epp [66] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#epp [67] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#pes [68] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#epp [69] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html#pes [70] mailto:eubasics@allmansland.com [71] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/index.html