Saturday, 14 February 2009

Members of the European Parliament: Privileges and immunities

My third Valentine’s Day post goes out with my best wishes to all readers and commentators as well as my fellow Eurobloggers and the aggregators of the Euroblogosphere at Bloggingportal.eu.

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After this outburst of sentimentalism, a quick return to the bricks and mortar of European integration.

Starting from the normal presentation of the current treaties and the Lisbon Treaty, this short detour began from the provisions on the European Parliament. The European elections are coming up in June 2009, so I wanted to look at the available official information about the basics concerning these largest supra-national elections in the world, with almost 400 million potential voters.

After the background and the general provisions concerning the European Parliament, we now look at what Protocol (No 36) on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/318, has to say about the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs):

CHAPTER III
MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT


Article 8

No administrative or other restriction shall be imposed on the free movement of Members of the European Parliament travelling to or from the place of meeting of the European Parliament.

Members of the European Parliament shall, in respect of customs and exchange control, be accorded:

(a) by their own government, the same facilities as those accorded to senior officials travelling abroad on temporary official missions;

(b) by the government of other Member States, the same facilities as those accorded to representatives of foreign governments on temporary official missions.


Article 9

Members of the European Parliament shall not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties.


Article 10

During the sessions of the European Parliament, its Members shall enjoy:

(a) in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament;

(b) in the territory of any other Member State, immunity from any measure of detention and from legal proceedings.

Immunity shall likewise apply to Members while they are travelling to and from the place of meeting of the European Parliament.

Immunity cannot be claimed when a Member is found in the act of committing an offence and shall not prevent the European Parliament from exercising its right to waive the immunity of one of its Members.

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Comment

These EU-wide parliamentary rights and immunities resemble those applicable nationally to parliamentarians in the member states, and they seem necessary for the functioning of the European Parliament.

Still, I am doubtful if provisions tying the members to the legal rules concerning the immunities accorded at national level are the right solution. If we think that the citizens of the European Union should be represented equally, the rules pertaining to their representatives (MEPs) should be the same, to the extent possible, shouldn’t they?


Ralf Grahn