French politicians, already notorious for holding multiple political positions at home, will be able to continue doing so in the European Parliament until 2019. EURACTIV France reports.
Elected in May 2014, the latest batch of French MEP are particularly accomplished in this typically French practice of holding numerous electoral mandates.
Almost half of France’s 74 MEPs also hold another public position.
The practice will be outlawed in France as of 2019 for local executive mandates such as mayor and deputy mayor, and president or vice-president of a departmental or regional council. Non-executive mandates, such as seats in regional, departmental and city councils, will not be affected by the law.
The far-right National Front, which is officially opposed to multiple mandates, boasts 23 MEPs, of which 12 also occupy local elected positions.
Nine of these MEPs, including Marine Le Pen (Nord-Pas-de-Calais), hold second mandates in regional councils, two in town councils and one, Steeve Briois, is mayor of Hénin-Beaumont.
Several of these MEPs – namely the regional councillors Louis Alliot (Languedoc-Roussillon), Jean-François Jalkh (Lorraine) and Jean-Marie Le Pen (Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur) – failed to declare their local positions on the European Parliament’s list of members’ interests.
Socialists at fault
The Socialist Party also harbours MEPs with multiple mandates, particularly in the regional council of Île-de-France, despite officially opposing the practice.
Emmanuel Maurel is vice-president of the regional council of Île-de-France, in charge of professional training, apprenticeship and work-study schemes and employment, and Guillaume Balas and Christine Revault d’Allonnes Bonnefoy both occupy seats in the same regional council.
But the Socialists say that such situations are temporary. A councillor clarified that “Guillaume Balas is in the process of resigning from his position of president of the Socialist group in the regional council. His resignation from the position of councillor is under discussion”. Sources close to Emmanuel Maurel also say he will resign “before the end of 2014”.
Éric Andrieu, Socialist MEP and vice-president of the regional council of Languedoc Roussillon, is making similar promises. “I will continue as vice-president of the regional council for the next 15 months before leaving office,” the MEP explained. This transition period is due to the election of a new council president on 28 September. “Otherwise I would have left office in September,” he said.
Socialists Isabelle Thomas, Gilles Pargneaux and Jean-Paul Denanot also occupy elected positions both in Brussels and in their French regions, and Denanot plans to resign as president of the Limousin region on 15 October, “fulfilling the commitment he made at the time of his candidature for the European elections”.
Half of conservative MEPs hold multiple mandates
On the centre-right opposition, the situation is not very different. 10 out of the 20 MEPs from the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) also hold multiple mandates.
Rachida Dati, a former protégée of Nicolas Sarkozy, lead a municipal election campaign in March, immediately followed by a European campaign in May, and is now simultaneously mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris and an MEP, according to the European Parliament’s declaration of interests.
The other nine UMP members with multiple mandates hold positions as regional and departmental councillors, mayors and deputy mayors.
The practice of accumulating is also commonplace among the centrists. Marielle de Sarnez is a councillor in Paris’ 6th arrondissement, Nathalie Griesbeck is vice-president of the Moselle departmental council and Dominique Riquet is a city councillor in Valenciennes.
Following his election to the European Parliament, Jean Arthuis resigned from his position as president of the Mayenne departmental council, but remains a member of the council.
No accumulation among the Greens or the extreme left
The only politicians standing out in this regard are found among the ranks of the Greens and the far left.
The practice of holding multiple positions is “seen in a very bad light by Green Party officials”. As a result, none of France’s six Green MEPs hold any other elected office. Only Michèle Rivasi, leader of the French Green delegation in the European Parliament, held a position on the Valence city council until March 2014, before her reelection.
A spokesperson for the Greens commented that “our policy is to present candidates for the European elections that commit to not accumulating mandates”. None of the four Left Front MEPs hold any other elected positions.
The French practice of accumulating mandates appears to have a bright future in the European Parliament: the law against holding multiple elected positions will only be applied to MEPs from 2019.
The newly-elected French MEPs will thus be allowed to carry out their whole mandate in conjunction with any local executive positions they hold, while members of the French parliament and senate will be subject to the new rules from 2017.
>> Read: French MEPs avoid multiple mandate ruling until 2019 (in French)
The practice in other countries
The habit of accumulating mandates is nothing new in Brussels, and the French are the European leaders in this department. According to a report by the Robert Schuman foundation on France’s influence in the European Parliament, 40.5% of French MEPs also held other positions in December 2013, compared with 24.7% of MEPs from Italy, 22.2% from Germany, 11.1% from Spain, 4.1% from the United Kingdom and 0% from Poland.
“What we observe in practical terms is that the accumulation of mandates has a big impact on the availability, attendance and influence of members of the European Parliament,” says Charles de Marcilly, head of the Robert Schuman foundation’s Brussels office.
The distribution of influential positions in the European Parliament confirms this observation. “France has almost nobody in the position of coordinator, while Germany has 20 MEPs!” Marcilly remarks.
Weighed down by accumulation
In the 2014 parliamentary calendar, only 7 whole days and 5 part days are devoted to “external parliamentary activities”, leaving MEPs very little time to carry out the duties associated with a local mandate.
“The mandate of an MEP has become more and more complicated over time and with the different treaties,” de Marcilly says. “It is no longer possible to spend only two days a week in Brussels”.
In its anti-corruption report, the European Commission singles out the accumulation of mandates as one of the factors contributing to corruption in France.
The European executive cites the annual reports of the French Central Service for the Prevention of Corruption, which believes the accumulation of mandates to be one of the most common factors leading to corruption.
In France, opposition to the accumulation of mandates has been widespread, a position that is also popular with the electorate.
But many French MEPs in Brussels still hold local office in their member state.
The French law against holding multiple mandates comes into force in 2017 for members of the national parliament and 2019 for Members of the European Parliament.
- 1 January 2019: French law against plurality of mandates comes into force for Members of the European Parliament.
- May 2019: Next European elections.
- EU Anti-Corruption Report - France - February
Robert Schuman Foundation
- The influence of France in the European Parliament: choosing the right candidate - January 2014