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.

Crowley set to join ECR

European_Conservatives_and_Reformists_logoIreland South MEP Brian Crowley, Fianna Fails sole MEP, is set to announce that he will be leaving the liberal ALDE Group in the European Parliament and instead will join the European Conservatives and Reformists according to Press Reports today.

If this does happen it will put in doubt Fianna Fails membership of the pan-European ALDE Party to which the party leader, Michael Martin is firmly in favour of.

Crowley’s decision to join ECR will mean that Irish MEPs are now spread across 5 European Parliament Groups.

  • EPP: 4 MEPs (Fine Gael)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 MEPs (3 Sinn Fein, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan)
  • ALDE: 1 MEP (Marian Harkin)
  • ECR: 1 MEP (Brian Crowley)
  • S&D: 1 MEP (Nessa Childers)

With Crowley joining the ECR they are now represented in 15 countries. The UK (Conservatives) and Poland (Law and Justice) make up the largest delegations with 20 and 19 respectively and the rest of the group made of MEPs from Belgium (4), Bulgaria (1), Czech Republic (2), Denmark (4), Germany (8), Greece (1), Croatia (1), Latvia (1), Lithuania (1), Netherlands (2), Slovakia (2) and Finland (2).

Crowleys transfer also solidifies ECR as the 3rd largest group in the parliament with 69 seats and pushing ALDE back to 66.

It will be interesting to see now what happens to Fianna Fails membership of the ALDE Party and how often Crowley will be voting with his colleagues.

 

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.

Phil going for the “Pink” vote

We are all fairly used to seeing adverts when we open up Apps these days, but one popped up today that made me take notice. An ad for a European Parliament Candidate on a gay “dating” app. None other than Labour’s Phil Prendergast, who replaced Alan Kelly following his election to the Dáil, and is running for re-election in Ireland South.

Phils Grindr ad

Now for me Gay men aren’t normally the best at going out and voting, going by my friends. But then again, has anyone else really targeted them outside of the odd advert in a Pride brochure?

It will be interesting to see if it will make a difference. But strategically I think it done to far out from the election to make a difference.

 

 

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ELDR Party Changes name to ALDE Party.

 

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Their new website is aldeparty.eu

 

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Heading towards a Single EP Seat

Phil Prendergast MEP (S&D, Ireland South) supporting the Single Seat Campaign (Source: Instagram)

Today the European Parliament marked another step towards having one seat by transferring all its activities in Strasbourg to its building in Brussels.

 

Currently under the Treaties all plenary votes must take place in Strasbourg meaning that once a month there is a big trip for MEP’s staff and lots of paper from Brussels to Strasbourg.

Under two reports today the Parliament took a stance and pushed for the European Parliament to have one seat. The first set of votes was on the “General budget of the European Union for the financial year 2013 – all sections0” (A7-0311/2012) a report by Giovanni LA VIA (EPP/IT) and Derek VAUGHAN (S&D/UK) a number of sections were passed calling for one seat. They results were as follows according to SingleSeat.eu: (Note RCV stands for Roll Call Vote)

86. Believes that, like every directly elected parliament, the European Parliament should have the right to decide on its own seat and working place arrangements; CARRIED by show of hands

87. Declares, therefore, that Parliament’s seat and places of work for Members and officials should be decided upon by Parliament itself; CARRIED by show of hands

88. Urges the two arms of the budgetary authority (the Council and Parliament), in order to make financial savings and to promote a more sustainable climate- and environmentally friendly solution, to raise the issue of a single seat and Parliament’s working places for Members and officials in the upcoming negotiations on the next MFF for 2014-2020; SPLIT: 1 Recorded Vote by name (RCV) 698: +604, -75, 19 abstentions); 2 RCV (693: +510, -143, 40 abstentions)

89. Urges the Member States to revise the issue of Parliament’s seat and working places in the next revision of the Treaty by amending Protocol 6; SPLIT: 1 RCV (698: +615, -64, 19 abstentions); 2 RCV (689: +532, -122, 2 abstentions)

90. In the meantime, calls on the Council to start elaborating a road-map with the Parliament towards a single seat and a more efficient use of Parliament’s working places, taking into account specific up-to-date figures detailing the cost of each place of work and working conditions for staff, as well as economic, societal and environmental factors – to be presented in a report by 30 June 2013; RCV (700: +518, -149, 33 abstentions)

91. Suggests that the agreement between the Luxembourg authorities and Parliament on the number of staff to be present in Luxembourg should be revised, taking into account a revision of Parliament’s needs; EPP: +634, -306; CARRIED

It is interesting to note that the Parliament is also taking issue with the presence of some of its staff in Luxembourg and wants to move them to Brussels also.

The second vote was on “Multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020” a report by Reimer BÖGE (EPP/DE) and Ivailo KALFIN (S&D/BG). This report had a roll call vote on the following section:

50. Points to the significant savings that could be made if the European Parliament were to have a single seat; urges the budgetary authority to raise this issue in the negotiations on the next MFF 2014-2020;

It was passed 452 in favour, 180 against and 40 abstentions.

All the votes above prove that the majority of MEPs want to abandon the sittings in Strasbourg and it is interesting to note that this is happening during a the case that France has brought against the European Parliament at the European Court of Justice on having two of sittings in one week.

This will hopefully make Council of the European Union take notice and start to take action and try and convince France to give up on tying to hang on to the Parliament and allow it to hold it’s meetings where the member’s decide!

See SingleSeat.eu for more information on the campaign and why not sign the petition at oneseat.eu?

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The next Commission President?

European Commissioner Viviane Reding
European Commissioner Viviane Reding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Euractiv jostling for the nomination for the next European Commission President has begun. As the next President will be picked based on the who is the largest party in the next European Parliament, elected in 2014, it will be a contest between European People’s Party, EPP, (currently the largest party) and the Party of European Socialists ,PES, the next largest party, who sit as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the Parliament.

For the EPP, Viviane Reding of Luxembourg, who is the currnet Vice President of the European Commission and is the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. According for Euractiv sources she has begun campaigning for the position ahead of the EPP choosing its candidate ahead of the next election.

Reding is regarded as a bit of a shoe-in for the job, she has been a commissioner since 1999 and before that she was an MEP between 1989 and 1999. She has served in the following positions on the European Commission

  • Commissioner for Education and Culture (1999-2004)
  • Commissioner for Information Society and Media (2004-2010)
  • Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (2010 -Present)

She could be a very good candidate for the EPP and could be the first female President of the Commission.

For the PES, Martin Schulz of Germany, is positioning himself for the position. Schulz is currently the President of the European Parliament so would have a strong support base among PES/S&D MEPs. He was elected President in January 2012. He is an MEP since 1994. He led the PES group between 2004 and 2012.

Reding v Schulz could be the theme of the 2014 European Elections.

Which MEP best represents your political views?

Votewatch.eu have launched a new tool along the votematch lines. Using EP Votematch, having showed how you would vote on issues that have passed the European Parliament, it will rank the MEPs that you agree with most. It is an interesting idea and I must say I was surprised with the results.

Across the whole Parliament I agreed most with Kristiina OJULAND an Estonian ALDE MEP. Among the Irish MEPs Marian HARKIN (Ind, ALDE) was the MEP I agreed with most.

Before you answer the questions you can get more information on the resolution and exactly how MEPs voted. So you don’t have to know everything about EU politics to use this.

It is interesting that on the website you can see how users would have voted on the questions. It makes for an interesting analysis, when more people respond.

So who is the MEP you agree with most?

The European Year of the Volunteer 2011

2011 has been designated the European Year of the Volunteer by the European Union. This is following a campaign led by Marian Harkin MEP (Ireland/ALDE). She worked with the unofficial “EP Volunteering Interest Group” to lobby the Parliament, the Council and the Commission on this initiative.

Volunteering is very important in many Member States. Across the EU 92 to 94 million adults are involved in volunteering in the EU. That is 23% of all Europeans over 15 years of age. But is that enough?

Also it varies widely among the member states. In Austria, Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom have volunteering rates of over 40%. In Denmark, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg volunteering is between 30%-39% of over 15 year olds. Estonia, France and Lithuania have rates between 20%-29%. In Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Sweden and Spain it is between 10-19%. And in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Latvia volunteering is at less then 10%.

While each country does have different definitions of volunteering and some have legal definitions, the disparate figures go to show that volunteer in most member states could do with a helping hand.

This is especially important in our current economic times as volunteering can add to GDP. For example, volunteering accounts for between 3% and 5% of GDP in Asutria, Netherlands and Sweden. In Ireland it contributes between 1-2% of GDP. This is a resource that we can build on and may help us overcome some of our difficulties.

There are a number of websites out there to highlight the year,

So get out there, and volunteer. Help make a difference to someone else’s life and your own!

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Sign up for MEU 2011

Le parlement européen, à Strasbourg.
Image via Wikipedia

Are you interested in the European Union? Aged between 18-26? Want to go to Strasbourg to see how the European Union really works?

Well heres your chance! Between the 19th to 26th March 2011 a Model European Union will take place in Strasbourg.

It will debate two topics

  1. a Directive on the application of patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare and
  2. a Directive on working conditions of temporary workers.

You can apply to be a MEP, a Minister in the Council, a Lobbyist, Journalist or Interpreter.

You have until 3rd January 2011, 12 p.m. CET to apply!

Check out MEU2011.org for more information!

Also read The European Citizen’s account of MEU2010

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