New Parliament [Archived]
The newly elected post-enlargement Parliament will still be dominated by the two biggest political families. Under the new Constitution, the Parliament will gain in power but will it be able to deliver?
Since 1979, the European Parliament has been directly elected every five years. Between 10-13 June 2004, twenty-five countries sent 732 new members to the European Parliament. These newly elected MEPs will represent 455m EU citizens, up from the 380m of the EU-15 [figures released by Eurostat in March 2004].
The powers of the European Parliament have grown considerably in the last twelve years, with first the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and then the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty expanding the Parliament's involvement in passing EU legislation, its say over the EU budget and its powers of control over the appointment of the European Commission.
New Political groups
Seven political groups will shape the political life of the new Parliament:
- European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED) with 268 members,
- Group of Socialists in the European Parliament (PES)with 200 members,
- the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) with 88 members,
- the Greens and European Free Alliance group (Greens/EFA) with 42 members,
- European United Left and Nordic Green Left (EUL/NGL)with 41 members,
- the Independence and Democracy group (IND/DEM) with 32 members
- the Union for Europe of the Nations group (UEN)with 27 members
- 34 remaining members will sit as non-attached MEPs
With the new eurosceptic political group 'Independence and Democracies' and the new federalist "Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe", the Parliament is set to be the stage for hot deabtes on the future direction of EU integration. Two of the main aims of the 'Independence and Democracies' group are to fight the Constitution and to prevent the construction of a European superstate.
EP President Josep Borrell
Spanish Socialist Josep Borrell was elected President thanks to 388 MEP votes (out of 700 votes cast) on 20 July 2004. Borrell's victory was expected given that the Parliament's two biggest groups - the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and Socialists - had agreed to share the Parliament's presidency. Under the deal, centre-right MEPs agreed to support Borrell to lead the Parliament for the first half of its term and Socialist MEPs are to return the favour and support a centre-right candidate (probably German MEP Hans-Gert Pï¿½ring) for the second half.
Numerous commentators have criticised this "unnatural agreement" which has left Polish MEP Bronislaw Geremek with no chance of becoming Parliament President. In an interview with Euronews, the Pole declared that "the support of certain MEPs towards a candidate coming from a new Member State [...] represents an opportunity for the Parliament to have a President that sits above party divisions"
Relations between the EP and Commission President JosçŸanuel Durâ Barroso
Jose Manuel Durâ Barroso has been approved by MEPs to follow in Romano Prodi's footsteps as the next Commission President. In a secret ballot, 413 MEPs voted for Barroso with 251 voting against. During his hearing with the EP political groups, Barroso undertook to take account of the Parliament's views at all times. "The Commission must not be isolated. We need a strong, credible and independent Commission, and to achieve that we must have the support of the European Parliament," he said.
The Parliament has 20 committees. Some of them have been reshuffled since the previous legislature. The changes seem to signal a recognition of new international realities as well as a better alignment of policy areas:
- The Committee on Foreign Affairs now includes two important sub-committees on Human Rights and on Security and Defence
- External trade will also now have its own committee having been separated from the Industry, Research and Energy Committee
- the former Legal Affairs and Internal Market committee is split into a Legal Affairs Committee and an Internal Market and Consumer Protection one
- The Committee on Transport and Tourism no longer includes Regional Policy which will become the competence of a new committee
- The environment Committee has been re-christened the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
- The Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs has been renamed as the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
- Youth, Media and Sports has disappeared from the heading of the Committee on Culture and Education
Based on the priorities of the political groups and the number of votes they gained in the European elections, the twenty committee chairpersons have been appointed for the new Parliament. Seats were distributed according to the d'Hondt method - a consensus based on proportional distribution. Parliament's committees do the preparatory work for Parliament's plenary sessions, where they draw up and adopt reports on legislative proposals. The Chair, or Vice-Chair in his/her absence, sets the agendas of committee meetings and acts as an 'unofficial' power broker when dealing with committee reports on legislation or policy reviews.
|Budgets (BUDG) (47 MEPs)||Polish MEP Janusz Lewandowski||EPP-ED|
|Budgetary Control (CONT) (35 MEPs)||Hungarian MEP Szabolcs Fazakas||PES|
|Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) (49 MEPs)||French MEP Pervenche Beres||PES|
|Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) (50 MEPs)||Italian MEP Ottaviano Del Turco||PES|
|Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) (63 MEPs)||German MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz||EPP-ED|
|Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) (51 MEPs)||British MEP Giles Bryan Chichester||EPP-ED|
|Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) (40 MEPs)||British MEP Philip Whitehead||PES|
|Transport and Tourism (TRAN) (51 MEPs)||Italian MEP Paolo Costa||ALDE|
|Regional Development (REGI) (51 MEPs)||Spanish MEP Gerardo Galeote Quecedo||EPP-ED|
|Agriculture (AGRI) (42 MEPs)||French MEP Joseph Daul||EPP-ED|
|Fisheries (PECH) (35 MEPs)||French MEP Philippe Morillon||ALDE|
|Culture and Education (CULT) (35 MEPs)||Greek MEP Nikolaos Sifunakis||PES|
|Legal Affairs (JURI) (26 MEPs)||Italian MEP Giuseppe Gargani||EPP-ED|
|Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) (53 MEPs)||French MEP Jean-Louis Bourlanges||ALDE|
|Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) (28 MEPs)||German MEP Jo Leinen||PES|
|Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) (35 MEPs)||Slovak MEP Anna Záborská||EPP-ED|
|Petitions (PETT) (25 MEPs)||Polish MEP Marcin Libicki||UEN|
|Foreign Affairs (AFET) (78 MEPs)||German MEP Elmar Brok||EPP-ED|
|Foreign Affairs - Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) (32 MEPs)||French MEP Hélène Flautre||Green/ALE|
|Foreign Affairs - Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) (32 MEPs)||German MEP Karl von Wogau||EPP-ED|
|Development (DEVE) (34 MEPs)||Italian MEP Luisa Morgantini||GUE/NGL|
|International Trade (INTA) (33 MEPs)||Spanish MEP Enrique Baron Crespo||PES|
'Group co-ordinators' also play an important role, providing a point of contact within their political groups for specific policy issues and organising support within committees when it comes to voting on committee reports. See list of the coordinators for the:
- European Socialists
Percentage of women
The overall gender balance in the current parliament shows little difference from that of the previous term. In total, 30.33 per cent out of the 732 members in the current parliamentary term are women. However, the percentage of female members is higher in the EU-15 (32.46 per cent) than in the EU-10 (22.84 per cent).
The percentage of female MEPs this term is the highest in Sweden (57.89 per cent), followed by the Netherlands (44.44 per cent), France (43.59 per cent) and Slovenia (42.86 per cent). Female MEPs are worst off in the smallest Member States. Luxembourg currently has one female MEP in Strasbourg whereas Cyprus and Malta have not delegated any.
The European Parliament is expected to be the stage for some fierce debates on women's rights. Proponents of women's rights in Europe are up in arms after Godfrey Bloom, an MEP from the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), said women belong in the kitchen where they "ought to clean behind the fridge properly"
The election of Anna Zaborska (EPP-ED, Slovakia) at the helm of the women's rights and gender equality committee has been highly controversial given that she was reported to have made anti-abortionist and anti-homosexual statements. Socialist MEPS refused to take part in the vote.
- The next European elections will be held in 2009