Intergroups have no legislative power, but are formed to promote exchange of views – on subjects as diverse as animal rights or youth – and are often used as a single point of contact by lobbyists. EurActiv France reports.
The European Parliament’s main political factions have agreed on the intergroups that they will establish for the current mandate (2014-2019).
The list of 28 groups is due to be validated on 11 December by the Conference of the Presidents of the European Parliament’s political factions. This is an increase on the 27 groups of the previous mandate.
Intergroups have a unifying effect on the European Parliament: they can only be created by members from at least three different political factions, and are open to all the political persuasions of the hemicycle.
It is not uncommon to find the radical left sitting alongside the Liberals in the classic animal welfare intergroup, and almost all the parties are represented in the intergroup for the protection of gay and lesbian rights.
Even with no official status in the European Parliament, intergroups tend to be targeted by pressure groups, which see them as an easy way to gain influence in the Parliament.
“They allow us to carry out consultations very easily, and to create links with the MEPs,” a lobbyist explained.
But not all intergroups succeed: there were over 70 proposals for the current legislature. The Logistics intergroup proposed by the MEP Ismail Ertug, for example, did not make the final cut.
The creation of an intergroup is not as simple as it may appear at first. On top of the required three MEPs, the subject of the intergroup must be of interest to the main political groups in order to guarantee their support throughout the formation process.
The political priorities of the parties mean that newly proposed intergroups often fall by the wayside, while those from the previous mandate have a greater chance of being reformed.
Investment, Copyright and Sport on the new menu
The current major themes of European politics are reflected in the newly formed intergroups.
French MEP Dominique Riquet was successful in establishing an intergroup on long-term investment, and among the other new arrivals are intergroups on Children’s Rights, Creative Industries, Digital Agenda, Freedom of Religion and Belief and Religious Tolerance, Integrity – Transparency, Anti-Corruption and Organised Crime, and Sport and Trade Unions.
The question of copyright is currently making waves in the media other creative industries, which could be confronted with big changes when the Juncker Commission carries out its plan to review European copyright law.
The intergroup on the Freedom of Religion plans to address the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria.
Many well-established intergroups will be retained for the 2014-2019 legislature, including those dealing with public services, wine and tourism, which will shoulder more responsibility in the protection of the Ways of Saint James.
But some of the intergroups from the previous parliament will cease to exist, including those concentrating on energy and Tibet – a group that did not overly please China.
The proposed intergroups for 2014 to 2019 are as follows:
- Ageing and intergenerational solidarity
- Anti-racism & Diversity
- Sustainable Hunting, Biodiversity, Countryside Activities and Forests
- Children’s Rights
- Climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development
- Public Goods and Services
- Creative Industries
- Digital Agenda
- Extreme poverty and human rights
- Development of European Tourism, Cultural Heritage, Ways of Saint James and other European Cultural Routes
- Freedom of Religion, Belief and Religious Tolerance
- Integrity – Transparency, Anti-corruption and Organised Crime
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights – LGBT
- Long-term investment and reindustrialisation
- Rural, Mountainous and Sparsely-Populated Regions
- Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastlines
- SME “small and medium-sized enterprise”
- Sky and Space
- Social Economy
- Trade Unions
- Traditional National Minorities, Constitutional Regions and Regional Languages
- Urban Issues
- Welfare and Protection of Animals
- Western Sahara
- Wine, Spirits and Food Quality
- Youth Issues
Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe welcomed the re-establishment of the ageing and intergenerational solidarity intergroup, saying "The re-establishment of this long-standing Intergroup is a big success for older citizens’ and their organisations. AGE Platform Europe agrees with President Juncker’s acknowledgement that Europe has not done enough yet to address population ageing and we believe such Intergroup will help the European Parliament voice older citizens’ concerns and recommendations in EU policy debates that seek to help Member States address their demographic challenges. By joining the Intergroup on Active Ageing, Intergenerational Solidarity and Families Policies, MEPs can play a crucial role in proposing a vision of a society for all ages that supports the active participation of older citizens, enhances economic growth, supports greater social justice and cohesion and strengthens the rights and responsibilities of all generations".
Peter Matjaši?, President of the European Youth Forum, said "we are delighted that the European Parliament has chosen to re-establish the Youth Intergroup. This is an important sign for young people that the Parliament will listen to their concerns over the next five years. At a time when young people face huge difficulties, not least that unemployment remains stubbornly high, with 21.6 per cent of young people unemployed, it is heartening to see that there is an appetite within the Parliament to tackle these urgent issues".
Johan Willemen, President of the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), said “I would like to congratulate the Chairs of these intergroups, MEPs Karas, Olbrycht and Riquet, for their success and assure them of FIEC’s active collaboration and support! More than 95% of construction companies having less than 20 workers, it is crucial for the sector that the specific interests of these small companies are adequately taken into consideration by the EU policy makers. Regarding “URBAN”, FIEC looks forward to contributing to the exchange of information and views between MEPs and stakeholders on all issues related to urban development, be it housing, mobility, services or infrastructure. This is particularly timely and important considering that the European Commission is preparing proposals for an EU urban agenda. Long-term investment and reindustrialisation are the EU’s current main challenges in the support of competitiveness, job creation and the revival of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth! As well as the necessary structural reforms, there are significant, unsatisfied needs, concerning in particular infrastructure, the transition towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy and the financing of innovative businesses, especially SMEs."
Parliamentary intergroups can be formed by EuroMPs from any political group or committee, with a view to holding informal exchanges of views on particular subjects and promoting contact between MEPs and civil society.
Intergroups are not Parliament bodies and therefore may not express Parliament’s opinion.
Chairs of intergroups are required to declare any support they receive in cash or kind, according to the same criteria applicable to MEPs as individuals.
11 December: final approval of intergroups by the Conference of the Presidents