Tuesday, 24 February 2009

European Parliament: Conference of Presidents ─ political business

The English versions of the current Article 197 TEC and Article 14(4) TEU of the consolidated Lisbon Treaty regulate only that the European Parliament elects its President and its officers from among its members. In other language versions the officers are defined as the Bureau.

The rest of the internal organisation of the European Parliament is left to itself, with the EP Rules of Procedure as the centrepiece.

Among the various 16th editions the one from October 2008 seems to be the latest, available here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+RULES-EP+20081022+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN


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Conference of Presidents

Composition

Rule 23 lays down the composition of the Conference of Presidents. The composition highlights the importance of the political groups in the running of parliamentary business. Their chairs are members of the Conference of Presidents, chaired by the EP President. Despite the aim to reach consensus the bottom line is that the largest parliamentary groups dominate, because their chairs vote with their number of MEPs. One non-attached member participates, but without a vote:


Rule 23 Composition of the Conference of Presidents

1. The Conference of Presidents shall consist of the President of Parliament and the chairs of the political groups. The chair of a political group may arrange to be represented by a member of that group.

2. The non-attached Members shall delegate one of their number to attend meetings of the Conference of Presidents, without having the right to vote.

3. The Conference of Presidents shall endeavour to reach a consensus on matters referred to it.

Where a consensus cannot be reached, the matter shall be put to a vote subject to a weighting based on the number of Members in each political group.


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Duties

The Conference of Presidents is responsible for planning the legislative work and the agendas of the part-sessions, for questions relating to committees, for relations with the Commission and the Council as well as other EU bodies. The Conference maintains relations with national parliaments and non-EU countries and organisations. Seating arrangements and matters relating to the political groups fall within the remit of the Conference:


Rule 24 Duties of the Conference of Presidents

1. The Conference of Presidents shall carry out the duties assigned to it under the Rules of Procedure.

2. The Conference of Presidents shall take decisions on the organisation of Parliament's work and matters relating to legislative planning.

3. The Conference of Presidents shall be the authority responsible for matters relating to relations with the other institutions and bodies of the European Union and with the national parliaments of Member States. The Bureau shall name two Vice-Presidents who shall be entrusted with the implementation of the relations with national parliaments. They shall report back regularly to the Conference of Presidents on their activities in this regard.

4. The Conference of Presidents shall be the authority responsible for matters relating to relations with non-member countries and with non-Union institutions and organisations.

5. The Conference of Presidents shall draw up the draft agenda of Parliament's part-sessions.

6. The Conference of Presidents shall be the authority responsible for the composition and competence of committees, committees of inquiry and joint parliamentary committees, standing delegations and ad hoc delegations.

7. The Conference of Presidents shall decide how seats in the Chamber are to be allocated pursuant to Rule 32.

8. The Conference of Presidents shall be the authority responsible for authorising the drawing up of own-initiative reports.

9. The Conference of Presidents shall submit proposals to the Bureau concerning administrative and budgetary matters relating to the political groups.


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Suspension or removal of MEP

Among the penalties for serious misconduct, generally decided by the President, is the submission to the Conference of Presidents, pursuant to Rule 18, of a proposal for the Member's suspension or removal from one or more of the elected offices held by the Member in Parliament, according to Rule 147(2)(d).


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Europarty in breach of f(o)unding principles

Title XI of the Rules of Procedure deal with the relations with Europarties, officially political parties at European level (Rules 198 to 200).

According to Rule 200(1) the Conference of Presidents engages in an exchange of views ahead of a possible decision to refer to the committee responsible the question whether or not a political party at European level is continuing to observe (in particular in its programme and in its activities) the principles upon which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.


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Accountability

Again we see a positive commitment to openness and transparency. The minutes of the Conference of Presidents are distributed to all MEPs.

The minutes are ‘accessible to the public’, but the meaning of that is unclear. My meager efforts to locate these and other internal documents of the European Parliament on its web pages have come to naught:


Rule 28 Accountability of the Bureau and the Conference of Presidents

1. The minutes of the Bureau and the Conference of Presidents shall be translated into the official languages, printed and distributed to all Members of Parliament and shall be accessible to the public, unless the Bureau or the Conference of Presidents exceptionally, for reasons of confidentiality, as laid down in Article 4(1) to (4) of European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, decides otherwise with regard to certain items of the minutes.

2. Any Member may ask questions related to the work of the Bureau, the Conference of Presidents and the Quaestors. Such questions shall be submitted to the President in writing and published in the Bulletin of Parliament within thirty days of tabling, together with the answers given.


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Who are they?

There is a listing of the members of the Conference of Presidents on the following EP web page:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/otherBodies/search.do?body=1510&language=EN


1.
PÖTTERING, Hans-Gert President
2.
DAUL, Joseph Member
3.
SCHULZ, Martin Member
4.
WATSON, Graham Member
5.
CROWLEY, Brian Member
6.
MUSCARDINI, Cristiana Member
7.
FRASSONI, Monica Member
8.
COHN-BENDIT, Daniel Member
9.
WURTZ, Francis Member
10.
FARAGE, Nigel Member
11.
BELOHORSKÁ, Irena Member



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The European Parliament should step up its efforts to inform the public of the internal aspects of its work.


Ralf Grahn