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The New European Parliament June 2009: Composition and New Powers

Introduction

The five-yearly elections to the European Parliament were held on Thursday 4 June 2009 in the UK, with most EU countries voting two days later; the Parliament will last until June 2014. Since those elections the Parliament has held two plenary sessions at which internal business was dealt with.

Political Composition of the New Parliament

European People’s Party                                                    265

Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats           184

Alliance of Liberals & Democrats                                     84

The Greens                                                                           55

European Conservatives & Reformists                           54

European United Left/Nordic Green Left                         35

Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group                    32

Non-attached members                                                      27

Total                                                                                        736

The Political Groupings

European People's Party (EPP)

Now the largest of the groups in the Parliament, the EPP contains MEPs from Germany (CDU/CSU), Italy (PdL), France (UMP), Poland (Civic Platform), Spain (Partido Popular), Hungary (Civic Union), Romania (Democratic Party) and 19 other Member States. It is led by a French farmer, Joseph Daul MEP, who became leader of the group in 2007. The EPP has members from all Member States except the United Kingdom, following the decision of the Conservative Party to withdraw from their alliance with the EPP in June 2009.

There are no UK MEPs in the EPP.

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S & D)

The Socialist Group has been in existence since the parliament began as the assembly for the European Coal and Steel Community in the 1950s. It has been renamed several times, most recently in June 2009 when the name was changed to reflect the fact it now includes all the MEPs of the Italian Democratic Party, a centre-left party whose members had previously been split between the Socialist group and the Liberal group (see below). The leader of the new group is Martin Schulz MEP, a German Social Democrat first elected in 1994 who has been leader of the Socialists in the Parliament since 2004.

There are MEPs from 27 Member States in this group, the largest number coming from Germany (SPD), France (Socialist Party), Italy (Democratic Left), Spain (Socialist Workers’ Party) and the UK (Labour Party).

There are 13 Labour MEPs in this group, led by Glenis Willmott MEP (East Midlands).

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats comprises two groups that operate separately outside the Parliament: the European Democratic Party and the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party. With members from 18 Member States, the two largest groups by country are those from Germany (Free Democrats) and the United Kingdom (LD). The leader of the group is Guy Verhofstadt MEP, the former Belgian Prime Minister.

There are 11 Liberal Democrat MEPs in this group, led by Andrew Duff MEP (East of England).

The Greens/European Free Alliance

This block is an alliance of green parties (the European Green Party) and nationalist parties (the European Free Alliance). The largest single group is from Germany (Greens). In all, 13 Member States have MEPs in this group. The group is led by Rebecca Harms MEP of the German Green Party.

There are now two British Green MEP, Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas; the two SNP MEPs and the one Plaid Cymru MEP sit with this group by virtue of their being members of the European Free Alliance.

European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR)

Made up of MEPs from eight Member States, the ECR is a new group, formed after the British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron MP promised in 2005 to take his party out of the EPP. The three largest parties represented are the British Conservatives (26 seats) the Law and Justice Party of Poland (15) and the Czech Civic Democrats (9). The leader of the new group, Michal Kaminski MEP (Poland), took office after he was unexpectedly defeated for the post of Vice President of the Parliament by Edward McMillan-Scott MEP (Con), who had stood without the permission of his party and was then expelled.

The group set out its philosophical position in the "Prague declaration". This document calls for reform of the EU on the basis of "eurorealism, openness, accountability and democracy" and sets out 10 principles the members share. These include free enterprise, free and fair trade, small government, the freedom of the individual, the "sovereign integrity of the nation state" and what it called "opposition to EU federalism".

There are 25 Conservative MEPs in this group (including one Ulster Unionist), lead by Timothy Kirkhope MEP (Yorkshire & the Humber).

Confederal Group of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left

This group was founded in 1995 and brings together MEPs from the political Left who are outside the Socialist group with some leftwing greens. There are MEPs from 12 EU Member States. The group is led by Lothar Bisky MEP from the German Left Party.

Sinn Fein’s one MEP from the UK sits with this group.

Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD)

This is a new group created because two of the smaller groups in the last parliament fell below the threshold required to be a group from June 2009 (that is, 25 MEPs from seven Member States). The Union for a Europe of Nations and the Independence/Democracy Group (UKIP was in the latter group) agreed to combine forces in this new group. There are members from nine countries, of which the UKIP contingent of 13 MEPs is the largest. The current leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage MEP, and Enrico Speroni MEP of the Italian party, Northern League are the joint leaders of the group.

Non-attached members

The 28 MEPs who belong to no group include the three MEPs from the French National Front, the two from the British National Party and the Austrian campaigner against alleged abuses of MEPs expenses, Hans-Peter Martin.

The President

MEPs elected their new President (the speaker of the Parliament) in July for a term of two and a half years. He is the former Polish Prime Minister, Jerzy Buzek MEP, a member of the European People’s Party. He is the first person from the central and Eastern European Countries that joined in 2004 to become the head of one of the EU’s institutions. The president for the second half of the Parliament’s term is likely to come from the Socialist group.

New Powers under the Lisbon Treaty

If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the powers of the European Parliament will be increased as a result of the further extension of the co-decision procedure for much EU legislation. In future, co-decision will apply to all areas where QMV applies, that is the Common Agricultural Policy, all parts of the Budget, freedom, justice and security and several new areas of policy including energy market liberalisation and intellectual property rights.

The Parliament must also approve the nomination of the President of the Commission and then the entire new Commission, including the High Representative for CFSP. The vote to approve the new President of the Commission took place on Wednesday 16 September 2009, under the existing procedure in the Nice Treaty. Mr José Manuel Barroso was re-elected for a second five-year term.

 

October 2009

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