Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crackdown on Small Groups in European Parliament

Kathy Sinnott, pro-life Irish MEP

A report by Labour MEP Richard Corbett has called for new rules for political groupings in the European Parliament, which would eliminate small groups. The current rules for groupings within the parliament require that they have representation from one fifth, 20% of the member states and have a minimum of 20 MEPs. In a parliament with 15 member states this meant representation from three states. In the new situation of 27 member states with others waiting in the wings this already implies representation from 5/6 countries. Under the proposed new rules however groups would require representation from 25% of member states and have a minimum of 30 members. This report, which will come before the parliament in the July plenary is aimed at groups such as INDEM (Kathy Sinnott's group), the Greens and UEN the group to which Fianna Fail belong.

Should this vote be carried it would be a major setback for pro-life and pro-family deputies who are able under the current system to propose amendments to anti-life anti-family resolutions. The importance of the Pro-Life-Coalition of MEPs within the parliament has been clearly evident during various debates and shows that it has always been the small groups which tabled sensitive amendments on pro life, bioethics and family-issues. INDEM and the Greens in particular were outstanding in the fight against the use of embryonic stem cells and human cloning. The larger groups, (apart from a small number of deputies) do not support pro-life or pro-family policies. Efforts to block the proposal in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) were only partially successful and the entire issue will now be voted on in the July Plenary after the Irish Referendum.

In the meantime every effort is being made to keep this from becoming an issue for the Irish electorate prior to next week's referendum vote. During the debate on the issue this anti democratic measure was reasoned away by the PSE and EPP speakers who suggested that the abolition of small groups would lead to a coherent increase in the work of the parliament and that such a move would best serve democracy. They also blandly stated that members of those groups could either be non-aligned or should join the larger groups. Either option would remove their right to propose amendments. The two largest groups in the parliament - the centre-right European People's Party and the leftwing Socialists - have 64 percent of all the MEPs and may be able to push the changes through despite the combined opposition. All of which leads to the question do they really understand that real democracy is 'of the people, by the people, for the people?