France settles for EU Parliament’s leftover jobs

EP president vote

Martin Schulz was re-elected as President of the EU Parliament, followed by Sajjid Karim from the ECR group. [European Parliament/Flickr]

France only managed to secure two committee chairs, compared to four during the last legislature. France’s biggest delegation, the National Front, did not take part in the bargaining process because they failed to form a parliamentary group, whilst the Tories’ Conservative group increases its bargaining position. EURACTIV France reports.

The distribution of key jobs in the new European Parliament should be completed on Thursday (3 July) when the Assembly votes on the parliamentary committee jobs.

The distribution has to be approved by the MEPs, but deals have already been struck. France has definitely come out worse for wear.

Out of the 22 committees and sub-committees, only two will be led by a French person. Jean Arthuis (ALDE) will be chair of the budget committee, which used to be held by Alain Lamassoure from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP). Alain Cadec, who is also from the EPP, will be chair of the fisheries committee.

The budget and fishery committees are important for France, but they will come as little consolation.

Alain Lamassoure: “There are less of us than the Poles!”

During the last term, there were four French legislators presiding over committees.

Pervenche Béres from the French Socialist Party was chair of the employment and social affairs committee, Alain Lamassoure in charge the budget committee, the Green’s Eva Joly for the development committee, and Arnaud Danjean (EPP) for the sub-committee on security and defence.

This time around, the French Socialist did not get any committee chairs, choosing instead to concentrate their efforts to make Sylvie Guillaume one of the 14 vice-presidents of the Parliament. The number of French Green MEPs dropped significantly and they failed to secure a committee chair. There is still hope that they may get one at the half-way point of the legislature.

“We have a real lack of influence at the heart of the European institutions,” said Alain Lamassoure, president of the French European People’s Party delegation.

“In the Parliament, this is now even worse after the last elections. Out of the 74 French MEPs, 24 were elected from the National Front and are useless! The result is that we are less numerous than the polish delegation,” he said. The Polish delegation has 51 MEPs. When the National Front is not counted, the French delegation only has 50 MEPs.

The centre-right MEP Jérôme Lavrilleux, who has been mixed up in the Bygmalion Affair and accused of fraud in the financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign in 2012, will take his seat in the European Parliament and benefit from parliamentary immunity. He will be a member of the employment and social affairs committee.

The rise of the British conservatives

The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), which has replaced ALDE as the third largest group in Parliament (with 70 MEPs), took over a significant number of key jobs.

“ECR is Eurosceptic, but is playing by the Parliament’s rules,” said Alain Lamassoure. It now has a good bargaining position for the negotiations between parliamentary groups.

Thanks to greater influence, it has secured chair of the interior market and consumer protection committee and the security and defence committee.

Poland’s Karol Adam Karskin was nominated as one of the five Quaestors, those in charge of administrative issues which directly affect MEPs.

Head of the ECR group and candidate for President of the Parliament, Sajjad Karim impressed everyone by winning more votes than the number of MEPs in his group (101). This put him in second place after Martin Schulz, who was re-elected for a second term at the helm of the Parliament thanks to a coalition with the Socialists (S&D), the right (EPP) and the liberals (ALDE).

ALDE compensated with vice-presidencies

After electing their president, MEPs also had to elect 14 vice-presidents. Germany got two vice-presidencies, as well as the presidency with Martin Schulz. Italy and Romania also secured two seats, whereas France only got one with Sylvie Guillaume.

ALDE negotiated their way to two vice-presidencies (for Olli Rehn and Alexander Graf Lambsdorff) by backing the Socialist and EPP coalition.

In exchange, ALDE, now the Parliament’s fourth largest group with 67 MEPs, agreed to support Schulz’s presidency bid and an EPP candidate in the mid-term presidency election in 2017.

The EPP got six vice-presidencies, including for the former Italian commissioner, Antonio Tajani. The Socialist group only got three vice-presidencies, a small price to pay for the presidency.

Poor representation for Eurosceptics

Despite their rise in numbers after successful EU elections, none of the 100 Eurosceptic MEPs secured a top job in the Parliament.

Having failed to form a parliamentary group, the National Front’s MEPs will continue to sit with the 52 non-affiliated MEPs, of which they make up about half. This means they have been left out of negotiations which are key in reconstitution sessions.

>> Read: Eurosceptics make controversial return to EU Parliament

Even though the National Front is the largest delegation of French MEPs, not one of their members will be chair of a committee or sub-committee.

Things are not much better with Nigel Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD). With 48 MEPs, the EFDD secured the presidency of just one committee: the petitions committee, in charge of examining petitions submitted by European citizens. France’s Joelle Bergeron, who ran as a National Front candidate, but left to join Nigel Farage’s group, will sit on this committee.

Newly elected MEPs gather in the Brussels on 1 July 2014. This is the first time since the May 25 European elections. Their first session focuses on electing the President of the European Parliament.

Traditionally, EU top jobs are the result of a hard bargaining process between the member states. Who will take centre stage on the European level is negotiated on the basis of nationality and political allegiance, and is due to reflect a fair representation of European member states and of the political power balance in Europe.       

In the case of the Parliament presidency, this is often shared between the two largest European political factions: the centre-right EPP (221 seats) and the socialist S&D (191 seats).

>> Full coverage on EURACTIV's New Parliament page

  • 14-17 July 2014: next parliamentary session and election of the President of the European Commission

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