The Irish in Strasbourg

EU-ParliamentIts 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.

For reference here is the list of which Committees Irish MEPs were members of in the last parliament.

The New European Parliament

eu flagsFollowing last month’s European Elections the European Parliament will meet on July 1st to constitute itself and elect its new President. Most commentators expect that the two largest groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialist and Democrats, will continue their alliance and split the presidency again between them.

So how did the groups fair? 

The European Parliament now consists of 751 MEPs down 15 from the 766 MEPs in the last parliament. There has been some changes of Group compositions with newly elected parties and independents joining groups and some parties changing groups. The Groups now stand as follows:

  • EPP: 221 (-53)
  • S&D: 191 (-4)
  • ECR: 63 (+7)
  • ALDE: 59 (-26)
  • Greens/EFA: 54 (-4)
  • GUE/NGL: 52 (+17)
  • EFD: 32 (-1)
  • NI: 79

In Ireland Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have remained with their respective groups (EPP, S&D & GUE/NGL) and Independent Marian Harkin has also remained with ALDE.

Independent Nessa Childers has been readmitted to the S&D Group ensuring they are represented in every member state after Labour’s wipe-out at the elections. Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagen has joined Sinn Fein in the GUE/NGL group. The Socialist Party failed to retain it’s MEP.

That means the groups stand as follows in the Irish Delegation:

  • EPP: 4 (-)
  • S&D: 1 (-2)
  • ALDE: 2 (-2)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 (+4)

Commission President – Parliament v European Council

After electing the President and 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament the next task will be voting for the European Commission President. While the EPP and S&D leadership are backing Jean Claude-Juncker they dont have complete control of their groups. With UK Labour opposing Junker’s candidacy, neither party can afford to lose support on this vote.

  • Needed for a Majority: 376
  • EPP + S&D: 412
  • EPP + S&D -UKLab: 392

16 votes would be quite close. But of course Junker will have to emerge as the European Council Nominee first, a battle in itself, before any such vote will take place in the European Parliament.

The next Irish Commissioner

Pat Cox
Image via Wikipedia

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.

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Deadlock in the New Parliament?

Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Image via Wikipedia

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?

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PES Name Change?

Party of European Socialists
Image via Wikipedia

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:

  • EPP
  • ASDE
  • ALDE
  • Greens-EFA
  • GUE/NGL
  • Ind/Dem (maybe)
  • European Conservatives (Or similar name)
  • Far-Right grouping (BNP are trying to set up a grouping)
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“Lisbon treaty now in Irish hands.”

Image via Wikipedia

The above is according to Elmar Brok MEP (CDU/EPP). This because today the Czech Senate today approved the Treaty of Lisbon, leaving Ireland as the only EU member state not to have passed it.

From the press release:

“Now the Lisbon  treaty lies in the hands of Ireland  , because there is no alternative to the Lisbon treaty. The people in Ireland have made it clear that they want the European Union to be more democratic, transparent and efficient. This can only be achieved with the Lisbon treaty” Brok said.

The EU summit in June has to set the conditions for a new referendum in Ireland  . “The Irish government should submit a timetable for the ratification of the Lisbon  treaty in the entire European Union, in order to make Europe fit for the future”, he emphasised.

That said summit in June will be interesting as it will be chaired by Václav Klaus, the Lisbon-hating President of the Czech Republic.

Brok continues

“Many concerns of Irish citizens regarding the Lisbon  treaty are unfounded and can be met by declarations of the European Council, which will later become legally binding. The Lisbon  treaty makes the EU more democratic, because it strengthens the European Parliament and the national parliaments. Decision-making will become more efficient under Lisbon, for example by the expansion of majority decisions in the Council. Overall, the work of the European Union becomes more democratic, more efficient, and more transparent”.

Of course we still have to see these declarations and see will they actually mean some of the valid concerns that people have. Of course there won’t be a referendum on the Treaty until October which means hopefully the Government will be a bit more prepared for it.

If you are wondering the vote in the Czech Senate was 54 in favour to 20 against with 5 abstensions.
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Latest Think Post!

I’ve given up on counting my posts on ThinkAboutit was it was just getting confusing, and will be vey strange coming up towards the elections. But anyway the latest post is on Tory MEP Christopher Beazley joining the EPP. Give it and read and please rate it! 🙂

I found out about the story from @NEurope

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EPP Meet in Dublin: Who was there?

So there has been a bit about Merkel’s trip to Dublin for the EPP meeting co-chaired by Enda Kenny and President of the EPP, Wilfried Martens.

So who else was there?

The Minister of Belgium, Yves Leterme was there along with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of Malta, Tonio Borg. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radek Sikorski, Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece, Yannis Valinakis, Minister of the Czech Republic, Cyril Svoboda, and Foreign Affairs Minister of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Antonio Milososki also attended.

The following party leaders also attended, the leader of GERB (Bulgaria), Boyko Borissov; the Chairman of TS-LK (Lithuania), Andrius Kubilius; the Chairman of the CDA Group in the Dutch Parliament, Pieter Van Geel; along with the Chairman of the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, Joseph Daul.

Sounds like a fun party?