Saturday, 28 February 2009

European Parliament: Forming and maintaining a political group

How hard should it be to acquire the privileges accorded to political groups in the European Parliament?

What happens if members of a small group threaten to leave?



Even if the Europarties and the EP political groups are mainly coalitions, the Rules of Procedure require ‘political affinities’, which means that members are prevented from banding together on purely technical grounds to gain influence; Rule 29(1).
The Rules of Procedure add the following official explanation: Parliament need not normally evaluate the political affinity of members of a group. In forming a group together under this Rule, Members concerned accept by definition that they have political affinity. Only when this is denied by the Members concerned is it necessary for Parliament to evaluate whether the group has been constituted in conformity with the Rules.


Minimum requirements

The following hurdle is that a political group must have members from at least one fifth of the member states (now six) and a minimum membership of twenty MEPs: Rule 29(2).


Rule 29 Formation of political groups

1. Members may form themselves into groups according to their political affinities.

2. A political group shall comprise Members elected in at least one-fifth of the Member States. The minimum number of Members required to form a political group shall be twenty.

3. A Member may not belong to more than one political group.

4. The President shall be notified in a statement when a political group is set up. This statement shall specify the name of the group, its members and its bureau.

5. The statement shall be published in the Official Journal of the European


Higher hurdle after European elections 2009

When the newly elected European Parliament convenes after the June 2009 elections, the requirements for forming a political group are going to be higher, according to the Decision on amendment of Rule 29 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure ─ Formation of political groups; Resolution P6_TA-PROV(2008)0351.

As voted by the EPP and the PES, MEPs from at least a quarter of the member states will be needed; seven instead of six. The minimum number of MEPs rises from twenty to twenty-five.

Officially the European Parliament has aligned the number of member states with the number of states mentioned with regard to political parties at European level and their funding, but for Europarties it is enough to have elected representatives at national level in seven member states.

The committee report also compared the percentages of total membership needed in national parliaments to form political groups.

In fact it will be harder for motley crews of MEPs to the right of the centre-right (EPP) and to the left of the centre-left (PES) to find enough soul-mates to form political groups after the European elections.

The new Rule 29(2) sets the following requirements:

2. A political group shall comprise Members elected in at least one-quarter of the Member States. The minimum number of Members required to form a political group shall be twenty-five.


Transitional rule

If a duly constituted group slips under one of the thresholds or both, it can provisionally continue to exist on certain conditions according to the new Article 29(2a):

2a. Where a group falls below the required threshold, the President, with the agreement of the Conference of Presidents, may allow it to continue to exist until Parliament’s next constitutive sitting, provided the following conditions are met:
- the members continue to represent at least one-fifth of the Member States;
- the group has been in existence for a period longer than one year.
The President shall not apply this derogation where there is sufficient evidence to suspect that it is being abused.


Are these changes needed for the orderly conduct of business, or were the largest groups out to make life hard for potential secessionists?

Ralf Grahn