We are only two months from the European elections, to be followed by the forming of the (new) political groups in the European Parliament.
In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons Library has published a standard note authored by Vaughne Miller on the political groups in the European Parliament.
European Parliament Political Groups (SN/IA/5031; 26 March 2009; 10 pages) offers a brief view of the EP political groups. After an introduction and a look at the structure of the EP groups, the note deals with the various benefits connected with the groups (material, procedural, committee composition, decision-making using co-decision, a comment and a comparison with Westminster).
Higher hurdle after European elections 2009
On page 3, the note correctly quotes the existing minimum requirements for a political group. According to Rule 29(2) of the EP’s Rules of Procedure the current minima for the formation of a political group are:
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.
Given the proximity of the European elections and the formation of new groups, it would however have been helpful to mention the new rules entering into force at the first sitting of the new parliamentary term.
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.
Therefore 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:
Rule 29(2) amended
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.
One of the interesting questions after the European elections in June 2009 is going to be how the British Tories align themselves in the European Parliament, given the unquestionable importance of political groups in the running of the political business of the EP.