This is the latest Just the Facts in our series about the 2014 European Parliament elections. This Just the Facts edition will also form the basis of a deeper analysis of the elections, which European Movement Ireland will publish following the conclusion of negotiations in the Parliament. This Report will include:
- A guide and explanation of the groupings in the Parliament;
- An examination of the political permutations of the elections;
- Policy issues facing the new Parliament;
- Results and analysis from each of the 28 Member States;
- A look at voter turnout across the EU in these European Parliament elections.
Following the elections that took place across the EU from the Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 May 2014, the European Parliament will officially remain in recess until Tuesday, 1 July. However, it can be argued that despite being in recess, this period is actually one of the busiest for MEPs and political staff at the European Parliament.
In this brief piece, we will look at the various stages that are being gone through currently in Brussels and what is coming around the corner.
Election results began to emerge from the various European countries at 11pm on Sunday, 25 May. Depending on the electoral systems used and more importantly the method of counting used, these results became known either quite quickly or painfully slowly.
In Sweden, industrial action in the public sector meant that counting only went on during normal working hours with results taking up to a week to emerge. In Ireland the last seat was not filled until 4am on Thursday, 29 May following a series of recounts and rechecks in the manual counting process.
Once the first results became known, a number of meetings were held in Brussels between heads of state and also between the heads of the national delegations within the pan-European political parties. Following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, each of the main political groupings ran a pan-European lead candidate for the role of president of the European Commission, with the understanding that the Presidency will go to the candidate of the largest group in the Parliament following the 2014 elections. However, the European Council is not compelled to follow this recommendation; under the Lisbon Treaty it is only required to take the results “into account”.
The European People’s Party’s (EPP) candidate for president of the European Commission, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has already claimed the post for himself, despite opposition from the UK coalition government’s Conservative Party. Both the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) suffered losses in this election, ending the chances of Martin Schulz (PES candidate) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE candidate) to become Commission president through electoral mandate. Both candidates have conceded this fact.
Meetings between heads of state are still on-going with no clear resolution in sight. Just this week the British, Swedish and Dutch prime ministers met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sweden to discuss this issue. The European Council – representing the EU’s 28 heads of state – is due to announce its preferred Commission president candidate later this month.
Since Monday, 2 June, the newly elected and re-elected MEPs have converged on Brussels to thrash out a range of internal issues including the formation of the new political groups as well as elections and discussions to decide who will lead these groups. Some of the larger national parties such as the Belgian New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and the Italian Five Star Movement have been heavily courted by a number of the political groupings. The French National Front has also been to the fore looking to set up a new ultra-nationalist, right-wing group. A Parliament group needs a minimum of 25 MEPs from at least seven Member States.
The European Conservatives and Reformists group and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group have both been attempting to attract MEPs and parties from each other to join their respective groups as well as seeking to attract new members.
Within their internal group meetings MEPs have expressed their committee preferences, while a number of internal elections have also taken place. German MEP Manfred Weber has been elected as the new EPP Group Chairman.
Nearly half of the MEPs starting in July will be new and will only become official members of Parliament upon receiving their voting cards for the first plenary session on the Tuesday, 1 July. Of the 751 MEPs whose mandate will run for the next five years, 371 are new to Parliament.
At the first plenary session MEPs will elect a new President of the European Parliament, who is likely to be from the EPP group. The President directs Parliament’s activities, chairs plenary sittings and declares the budget finally adopted. The President also represents the Parliament in the outside world and in its relations with the other EU institutions.
The Parliament will also elect 14 Vice-Presidents. When the President is absent, they can replace him or her in the Parliament. The President can also delegate duties to them, such as representing the Parliament at specific ceremonies or acts.
After this, the Conference of Presidents is appointed. This comprises the President and the chairs of the political groups. It sets the agenda of the Parliament and is the authority responsible for the composition and competence of committees, committees of inquiry, joint parliamentary committees, and the delegations.
The Parliament will next decide the leadership and membership of the committees. The European Parliament has 20 standing committees. These committees are responsible for preparing work for the Parliament’s plenary sessions. They draw up, amend or propose to adopt legislative proposals and reports to be presented at the plenary sessions. A committee consists of 24 to 76 MEPs, and has a chair, a bureau and a secretariat. The political make-up of the committees reflects that of the plenary assembly.
MEPs may also become members of parliamentary delegations. These delegations aim to exchange information regarding the Parliament’s international relationships, especially relations with the Parliaments of non-EU countries. The delegations have between 12 and over 70 MEPs. In the previous Parliament, there were 41 delegations.
Next Commission President
Returning to this issue, the Parliament is due to vote on the Council’s nominee for this position on Wednesday, 16 July.
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