During the coming days and weeks, the existing political groups in the European Parliament and various national parties with elected members of the EP negotiate to form the political groups, which are central to parliamentary work.
As always, knowledge of the rules is a key element for an appreciation of the game, is sports as well as in politics.
The European Parliament has amended its Rules of Procedure, with changes taking place from the beginning of the new parliamentary term (version: 7th parliamentary term, July 2009).
Here are the provisions on the political groups in the European Parliament for the new parliament:
Formation of political groups
1. Members may form themselves into groups according to their political affinities.
[Interpretation: 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.]
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.
3. 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.
4. A Member may not belong to more than one political group.
5. 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.
6. The statement shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Activities and legal situation of the political groups
1. The political groups shall carry out their duties as part of the activities of the Union, including the tasks allocated to them by the Rules of Procedure. The political groups shall be provided with a secretariat on the basis of the establishment plan of the Secretariat, administrative facilities and the appropriations entered for that purpose in Parliament's budget.
2. The Bureau shall lay down the rules relating to the provision, implementation and monitoring of those facilities and appropriations, as well as to the related delegations of budget implementation powers.
3. Those rules shall determine the administrative and financial consequences in the event of the dissolution of a political group.
1. Individual Members may form Intergroups or other unofficial groupings of Members, to hold informal exchanges of views on specific issues across different political groups, drawing on members of different parliamentary committees, and to promote contact between Members and civil society.
2. Such groupings may not engage in any activities which might result in confusion with the official activities of Parliament or of its bodies. Provided that the conditions laid down in rules governing their establishment adopted by the Bureau are respected, political groups may facilitate their activities by providing them with logistical support. Such groupings shall declare any external support in accordance with Annex I.
1. Members who do not belong to a political group shall be provided with a secretariat. The detailed arrangements shall be laid down by the Bureau on a proposal from the Secretary-General.
2. The Bureau shall also determine the status and parliamentary rights of such Members.
3. The Bureau shall also lay down the rules relating to the provision, implementation and auditing of appropriations entered in Parliament's budget to cover secretarial expenses and administrative facilities of non-attached Members.
Allocation of seats in the Chamber
The Conference of Presidents shall decide how seats in the Chamber are to be allocated among the political groups, the non-attached Members and the institutions of the European Union.
The significant thresholds for political groups have changed to at least 25 MEPs, elected in at least one-quarter of the member states (now 7).
The MEPs who fail to form or to join a political group, or who decide to stay on the sidelines, are called non-attached members (NI = non-inscrits).