Its been a busy two days so far during this plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Following the re-election of Martin Schulz (DE, S&D) as President of the European Parliament the focus turned to the election of the 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament.
The Vice Presidents make up the Bureau of the Parliament, along with the President and Quaestors of the Parliament. They also chair sessions of the Parliament when the President is not present.
Of the 14 Elected Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG) was elected on the first count along with five of her colleagues from the European People’s Party. McGuinness actually had the 2nd highest number of votes with 441 votes only being beaten by her Italian EPP Colleague Antonia Tajani (452 votes).
Tomorrow the focus turns to the committees where much of the work of MEPs take place and much horse trading and bartering goes on. The size of the committees where set yesterday for the 20 committees and Irish MEPs will sit on 9 of those. The committee with the highest number of Irish MEPs is of course agriculture with three MEPs on it followed by Environment committee on which two Irish MEPs will sit.
Budgets (BUDG): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF)
Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON): Brian Hayes (EPP, FG)
Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL): Marian Harkin (ALDE, IND)
Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI): Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, SF), Nessa Childers (S&D, IND)
Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE): Sean Kelly (EPP, FG)
Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO): Brian Crowley (ECR, IND/FF)
Transport and Tourism (TRAN): Deirdre Clune (EPP, FG)
Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI): Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG), Matt Carthy (GUE/NGL, SF), Luke “Ming” Flanagan (GUE/NGL, IND)
Fisheries (PECH): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF).
No Irish MEPs sit on Foreign Affairs, Development, International Trade, Budgetary Control, Regional Development, Culture and Education, Legal Affairs, Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, or Petitions. How ever they may be appointed as supplementary members of those committees at a later point.
At the recent European Liberal Democrats Congress in Dublin, the delegates voted to change the name to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe Party (ALDE) to match its grouping in the European Parliament.
Sir Graham Watson MEP, President of the ALDE Party, said: “In 2004, other centrist forces joined with ELDR MEPs to form the ALDE Group in the European Parliament. Today, we create one Party to provide a home at EU level for all these forces and more.”
Guy Verhofstadt MEP, leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, said: “It makes sense for the ALDE Group in the European Parliament to be reflected in an ALDE Party, uniting the EU’s centrist forces under one umbrella.”
Fianna Fail is the Irish member of the ALDE Party (its going to take a while to get used to calling it that). The ALDE Party have 75 members in the European Parilment who join 10 other MEP’s (including Marian Harkin of Ireland-North West) to form the ALDE Group in the Parliament.
An interesting possibility has arisen from ALDE MEP’s. They want to move a meeting of the EU-African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Joint Parliamentary Assembly to Brussels according to Euractiv (original in French and English) thereby boycotting Hunagary. This is seen as a democratic protest against the recent media law in Hungary. This law has met with opposition from within and without Hungary.
The idea of this boycott came after Belgian MEP Louis Michel, co-chair of the EU-ACP assembly, called a special meeting after receiving a letter from Luxembourg colleague Charles Goerens MEP, who wrote that the law ”violates democratic principles recognised by EU member states”.
The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly brings together MEPs and elected representatives from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that have signed the Cotonou Agreement.
MPs from the ACP states meet their European counterparts for two plenary sessions a year, focusing on democracy and human rights. The 2011 meetings are scheduled for 16-18 May in Budapest and 21-23 November in Sierra Leone.
This is an interesting tactic by the liberal MEPs and is a constructive way to voice criticism of Hungary’s media. If the meeting is moved it will mean some loss of face for the Hungarian Government.
Reports are also surfacing that the Fianna Fail MEP’s tried to scupper a resolution on Gay Rights emerging from the Liberal Grouping. This just goes to show how “liberal” Fianna Fail really are.
Brian Cowen too is facing pressure from within the Liberal Grouping of the ELDR. The ELDR currently only have 4 heads of Government on the European Council, and Cowen’s support for Tony Blair and possible support for John Bruton, is not sitting well with the ELDR leadership.
Fianna Fail have found themselves between a rock and a hard place on this occasion. Will they toe the Liberal line, or will they continue to annoy their “allies” and do their own thing. I can’t see Guy Verhostadt keeping his cool with them for too long.
There was an article in last night’s Evening Echo (Not online) that basically suggested that it is a two horse race for the Irish Nomination to the new EU Commission in the Autumn. They are tipping Pat Cox or John Bruton to be the nominatee.
The rationale behind this is that they are both heavy hitters. Cox is a previous leader of the ALDE Group of the Parliament as well as being a former President of the European Parliament. Bruton is the current EU Ambassador to the US as well as being a former Taoiseach. If the Government nominate Cox or Bruton Ireland could nearly be assured of one of the big portfolios in the next commission.
In terms of outsiders to this, I can’t see the Government appointing a sitting TD as they really do not want to face into two by elections. Eoin Ryan features on the Paddy Power website as a possibility, as does Maire Geoghan Quinn.
I have a feeling though Cox will be the nominee especially as Fianna Fail is now in the ALDE and ALDE would like one of their own to be the Irish nominee not someone from the EPP family.
The newly elected Parliament looks set to become deadlocked over the nomination of the next European Commission President.
Jose Manual Barrosso has the backing of the EPP, and thats about it. The new European Conservative grouping could be persuaded to back him too. I doubt they could persuade Ind/Dem to back him publicly but they may vote for him.
The other candidate Guy Verhofstadt has the backing of GUE/NGL, Greens-EFA, PES ASDE and ALDE.
Unfortunatley neither side have a majority in the Parliament.
This could mean a very long summer of talking and such to try and cobble together a majority or it could mean a compromise candidate with which no one will be 100% happy with.
Now I’m not sure if I want to see Barrosso re-elected. I have read a few things lately from him that I wasn’t happy reading.
Now I’m not sure if I want Verhofstadt elected either, mainly as hes a leftist candidate.
Its going to be a long summer, and I don’t think I’ll be happy with who ever is elected President of the Commission. I wonder will the Parliament feel the same?
So the new European Parliament is going to be a bit of an Alphabet soup. According to The Lobby blog the Party of European Socialist Grouping in the Parliament is going to change its name to the “Alliance of Socialists and Democrats” or ASDE for short (Not to be confused with ASDA). So why the change?
The name change is to suit the Italian Partito Democratico who in the last parliament where split between PES and ALDE. This will shore up the PES ASDE numbers by giving them 21 extra MEPs.
There was some opposition from some MEPs who didnt want to lose the Socialist branding, but after the election results they look less likely to stick to their guns.
So the Groupings in the next parliament could be as follows:
Instead the Greens, ALDE and PES look set to team up to try and get former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt elected as Commission President according to euractiv.com instead of José Manuel Barroso. Verhofstadt’s party the Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (Flemish Liberals and Democrats) is part of the ALDE and looks set to be the their nominee.
This makes things interesting as the Commission President has to be elected by the European Parliament in a secret ballot. A combined vote of the PES, Green and ALDE grouping would be 294 votes, which is short of a majority.
Of course the ALDE is itself divided on the nomination as it is a small group it cannot hope to hold Commission President and Presidency of the European Parliament, which its leader Graham Watson wants.
Shuttle diplomacy is underway across European capitals to try and get support for nominations of both candidates, but it dosent look like Barroso’s re-election is assured as it was.
This EU links post shall be all about the EU political groups in the Parliament.
For a Group to be formally recognised in the Parliament, it must fulfil the conditions laid down in Rule 29 of the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. That Rule states that a Group must have MEPs elected in at least one-fifth of the Member States, must have at least twenty MEPs, must contain no MEP that is a member of another Group, and its MEPs must have a common political affinity.
Socialist Group in the European Parliament Known as the PES. Labour is the Irish member here. The PES have a very cool flashy website check it out. The PES has 215 MEPs in the parliament. Martin Schulz MEP (GER) is the current president of the PES.
Union for Europe of the Nations Group Known as the UEN. This is Fianna Fail’s grouping in the Parlaiment. The Co-Presidents of the grouping are Brian Crowley MEP (IRL) and Cristiana Muscardini MEP (ITA). Found the website hard to get around and cant link to specific pages to you have to look for yourself. Cant find a what we stand for page…
Independence/Democracy Group IndDem grouping in the Parliament has 24 MEPs. Kathy Sinnott is the Irish Member of the Group. The grouping is led by Johannes BLOKLAND MEP (Netherlands), Jens-Peter BONDE MEP (Den) and Nigel FARAGE MEP (UK)