Sunday, 22 February 2009

European Parliament: Vice-Presidents

In addition to the rare appearances of the oldest member (Rule 11) and the President we looked at earlier, Chapter 2 of the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure mentions the following officers: Vice-Presidents and Quaestors.

Rule 14 provides for the election of fourteen Vice-Presidents after the election of the President and his or her opening address.

(The official explanation added to Rule 14(1) allows nominations between the ballots: Although this Rule, unlike Rule 13(1), does not expressly provide for new nominations to be introduced between ballots during the election of Vice-Presidents, such action is permissible because Parliament, being a sovereign body, must be able to consider all possible candidates, especially since the absence of such an option might impede the smooth running of the election.)

The EP Rules of Procedure, 16th edition, October 2008, are available here:


Electing the Vice-Presidents

The election procedure is laid down in Rule 14:

Rule 14 Election of Vice-Presidents

1. The Vice-Presidents shall then be elected on a single ballot paper. Those who on the first ballot, up to the number of fourteen, obtain an absolute majority of the votes cast shall be declared elected in the numerical order of their votes. Should the number of candidates elected be less than the number of seats to be filled, a second ballot shall be held under the same conditions to fill the remaining seats. Should a third ballot be necessary, a relative majority shall suffice for election to the remaining seats. In the event of a tie the eldest candidates shall be declared elected.

2. Subject to the provisions of Rule 17(1), the Vice-Presidents shall take precedence in the order in which they were elected and, in the event of a tie, by age.

Where they are not elected by secret ballot, the order in which their names are read out to the House by the President shall determine the order of precedence.



Rule 14(2) relates the precedence of officers to Rule 17(1) on offices becoming vacant:

Rule 17 Vacancies

1. Should it be necessary for the President, a Vice-President or a Quaestor to be replaced, the successor shall be elected in accordance with the above rules.

A newly elected Vice-President shall take the place of the predecessor in the order of precedence.

2. Should the President's seat become vacant, the first Vice-President shall act as President until a new President is elected.


The duties of the Vice-Presidents, in order of precedenc, are laid down in Rule 20:

Rule 20 Duties of the Vice-Presidents

1. Should the President be absent or unable to discharge his duties, or wish to take part in a debate pursuant to Rule 19(3), he shall be replaced by one of the Vice-Presidents pursuant to Rule 14(2).

2. The Vice-Presidents shall also carry out the duties conferred upon them under Rules 22, 24(3) and 64(3).

3. The President may delegate to the Vice-Presidents any duties such as representing Parliament at specific ceremonies or acts. In particular, the President may designate a Vice-President to take charge of the responsibilities conferred on the President in Rules 109(3) and 110(2).


Chairman ad hoc

In addition to the general rule that the President is replaced by a Vice-President if he is absent or unable to discharge his duties, there are a number of specific tasks which can be allotted to Vice-Presidents.

Should the President abandon his role as chairman of the plenary debate to engage in the contents of an issue, he would be replaced by a Vice-President until the end of the debate according to Rule 19(3).



The Vice-Presidents are members of the Bureau, and Rule 22 refers to the duties of the Bureau, which regulates the internal work of the European Parliament.


Conference of Presidents

Rule 24(3) deals with the Conference of Presidents, which cooperates with the other EU institutions with regard to legislative planning and relations with national parliaments.

Rule 24(3):

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.


Conciliation Committee

When the European Parliament and the Council try to reach agreement on a legislative proposal, delegations from these institutions meet in a Conciliation Committee. Rule 64(3) lays down that three Vice-Presidents are appointed to the shifting EP delegation as permanent members for twelve months.


Ruling on Questions

The President can delegate to a Vice-President the ruling on the admissibility and order of Questions put to the Commission and the Council at Question Time, according to Rule 109(3).


Written questions

The President can designate a Vice-President to rule on the admissibility of written questions to the Council or the Commission, according to Rule 110(2).



The European Parliament is still excluded from or in an inferior position with regard to a number of crucial areas and issues relating to the security and prosperity of European Union citizens, but the EP has become an important co-legislator and the Lisbon Treaty would improve the legitimacy of EU legislation.

In its areas of competence, the European Parliament is an important player, setting standards for nearly 500 million Europeans. Lobbyists have discovered the EP’s importance ages ago, but public awareness remains low. Both mainstream media and citizens seem to be stumped by the complexity European Union decision-making.

Every organisation needs an internal machinery to work. The Vice-Presidents of the directly elected European Parliament form part of the backbone of an institution of growing importance. Some day even the European voters may realise it.

Ralf Grahn