France’s incoming MEPs will be ‘like a company that only functions with interns’

Other EU member states use the following cocktail for EU elections: one third veterans, one third ‘one-termers’ and one third new members

Only 20 out of the 70 MEPs set to represent France in the new European Parliament already know the system. “It is like a company that only functions with interns,” according to one lawmaker. EURACTIV France reports.

According to EURACTIV’s calculations, only 20 of the current crop of French MEPs out of 70 will take up a seat in the new Parliament.

“There were 30 of us in 2009 and now there are likely to be fewer than 20. We are not even sure whether there will be any French socialists!” said  MEP Alain Lamassoure of the French right-wing party Les Républicains (LR).

“Influence also depends on the numbers! The EU Parliament likes huge battalions,” he added.

Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the European People’s Party (EPP), currently the largest groups in the Parliament, are expected to have fewer elected representatives in the next legislature.

A large proportion of French MEPs with extensive experience in EU institutions will be leaving. This includes Pervenche Beres, Alain Lamassoure, Jean-Marie Cavada and Eva Joly.

In 2014, the wave of members of the National Front already affected the situation of French MEPs in the EU Parliament. This could happen again, as Le Pen’s rebranded party, Rassemblement national, and Macron’s la République en Marche (LREM), are likely to gain many seats.

A lack of experience

The Greens’ list, topped by Yannick Jadot, has only three outgoing MEPs. Eva Joly and José Bové will also leave their posts, while outgoing Green party member Pascal Durand should be re-elected, this time siding with LREM.

LREM will bring in a large number of newly elected representatives who will need to be taught their way around EU negotiations, where compromise and political alliances are key.

Macron’s “Renaissance” list includes only two outgoing MEPs with EU Parliament expertise: Dominique Riquet, MEP since 2009 and a transport specialist, as well as Pascal Durand, who has served since 2014. Number 2 on the list, Pascal Canfin was also briefly an MEP between 2009 and 2012.

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Out of the trio that leads LR’s EU election list, only Arnaud Danjean is an outgoing MEP, who also chaired the subcommittee on security and defence between 2009 and 2014.

Further down the party’s EU list, the outgoing MEPs are fisheries specialist Alain Cadec, current chairman of the French delegation, and trade specialist Franck Proust, as well as Anne Sander, Angélique Delahaye and Geoffroy Didier.

Former ministers Nadine Morano and Brice Hortefeux, although listed in positions four and five, are not that involved in parliamentary work.

Finally, the list of La France Insoumise  has two outgoing MEPs that are eligible for seats in the Parliament: Younous Omarjee and Emmanuel Maurel.

France is not interested in any magic solution

Influence is likely to be lost because of this lack of Parliament expertise. “In other large EU member states, political parties such as the Spanish People’s Party or the German Democratic Union (CDU), have a better long term strategy: one third veterans, one third ‘one-termers’ and one third new members,” said Lamassoure.

“80% will be new people who will have to learn everything from scratch, like a company with only interns. Only four or five of them would be able to claim to chair a committee,” he added.

In the EU assembly, several outgoing French MEPs were chairs and vice-chairs, and there was even a quaestor and a vice-president. Although modest, this will be impossible to recreate in the new Parliament.

“To have power in the European Parliament, you need to know how to make a transition between veterans and newcomers. With my three mandates, I can say that there is a disease in France to renew at all costs. But you need a balanced cocktail,” added Jean-Marie Cavada of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE).

“Even Macron’s En Marche has not drawn the consequences of the chaotic beginnings of their elected representatives in the French National Assembly,” said Pervenche Beres, who is regretting this loss of expertise.

This will be particularly visible in the EU Parliament as its functioning is diametrically opposed to that of the French parliament: no majority or passage by force is possible as each piece of text must be negotiated carefully.

“The proportion of French MEPs in the major parties will be very low, maybe ten in the EPP and possibly no socialists,” acknowledged a diplomatic source. But “there will be a presidential majority with French MEPs mostly being from Macron’s LREM, which is not the case at the moment.”

“The centrist group ALDE will have its numbers increase from 67 to 100 MEPs, making it the third largest group in the Parliament, strengthening its pivotal role,” said Cavada.

“If LREM spends the next few weeks breaking down the positions in the Parliament, then they must immediately think about who will be coordinator or chair of the various committees they target. As usual, the French are late and the Germans are already prepared,” he added.

At LREM, Fabienne Keller and Pascal Canfin are preparing to run for positions of influence. But they will have to deal with others from a re-baptised ALDE, where there is no shortage of bigwigs.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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