Green-Socialist cooperation strained over TTIP

Martin Schulz and Guy Verhofstad backed the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president, after initially standing against him. [euranet_plus/Flickr]

The grand coalition that elected Jean-Claude Juncker is damaging hopes of closer cooperation between Green and Socialist MEPs. EURACTIV France reports

Cooperation between the Greens and the Socialists in the European Parliament is faltering.

Green and Socialist MEPs once again found themselves in opposing camps during the International Trade Committee’s vote on the transatlantic treaty on 28 May. The Committee adopted a recommendation on TTIP that leaves the door open to the controversial ISDS arbitration mechanism.

French MEPs are “drivers” of cooperation

Both groups have clearly stated their intention to work together. “It is in our interest to work with the Greens, as well as with the radical left (GUE),” French Socialist MEP Emmanuel Maurel said. “While the French are the drivers of cooperation, we also have support among the German and Belgian MEPs,” he added.

The two groups have opened a number of new channels to improve cooperation, including increased coordination between MEPs, joint meetings, and the establishment of a direct line between Green and Socialist members of each parliamentary committee, to coordinate positions.

>> Read: Pro-Juncker coalition tries to block Committee of inquiry on Luxleaks

There is no lack of possible areas where the two groups might collaborate. Tax evasion, reforming the economic governance of the Union, the migration debate and social policy are all domains where the groups’ views overlap. But the question of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), initially identified as one of the obvious avenues of cooperation, quickly brought the Socialists’ dilemma to light.

Clash over TTIP

“For the Lange report to pass the stage of the International Trade Committee (INTA) and reach the plenary, the Socialist group must have gone back on what they had previously considered unacceptable between two continents with independent and well-functioning judicial systems: the infamous private arbitration tribunals, or ISDS,” said Yannick Jadot, the Green group’s TTIP spokesperson.

>> Read: MEPs give passing vote to TTIP

Emmanuel Maurel took a sideswipe at the Socialist group’s cooperation with the right and the Liberals. “Under pressure from the European right, our parliamentary committee was unable to stand up for a permanent solution to resolve disputes between investors and states, without recourse to the private arbitration of ISDS,” he said.

Grand coalition

The three groups that backed the Juncker Commission in November have since formed a grand coalition in the European Parliament. This theoretical alliance of 479 MEPs from the EPP, ALDE and S&D groups has a majority in Parliament.

>> Read: Grand coalition accord draws near in EU Parliament

But for the left, whose MEPs do not identify with many of the policies proposed by the Commission president, particularly on employment and social issues, the term “coalition” is something of an embarrassment. “Certain Socialists in the coalition are uneasy,” the president of the French Green delegation Michèle Rivasi said.

Gianni Pitella, the head of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, said “There is no contradiction. The three political groups that elected the Juncker Commission cooperate to pass legislation, but that has no effect on our independence.”

Philippe Lamberts, the co-president of the European Parliament’s Green group, said “The Socialists resist the idea of a grand coalition and want to work with us. But will they be able to leave the EPP in the minority on certain issues, and build an alternative majority?”

Alternative majority

The complexity of establishing a majority outside the grand coalition is such that, for now at least, the convenient three-group alliance survives in the European Parliament.

Charles de Marcilly from the Robert Schuman Foundation said, “The grand coalition still exists on a certain number of subjects like foreign policy, particularly on Ukraine, and the Energy Union and the Juncker Plan.”

>> Read: French Socialists expose frailty of EU Parliament coalition

“Today, for want of a better system, this grand coalition is working,” Charles de Marcilly explained. Faced with an increasingly strong European executive since the arrival of Jean-Claude Juncker, the Parliament has struggled to increase its influence in the European legislative process.

“And for that, the Parliament has no other choice but to rely on a strong majority: that of the grand coalition,” Charles de Marcilly added.

The European Parliament coalition between the right (EPP), left (S&D) and liberal parties (ALDE) allowed Martin Schulz to remain head of the institution, and ensured the election of former Luxembourgish premier Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission. The main aim of the coalition is to divide up the EU's top jobs.

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