The European Parliament is sabotaging its own democratic values

There is only one way of looking at the Leinen amendment in the European Parliament: it structurally tries to silence Eurosceptics.

Changing the funding of political groups in the EP

In an amendment submitted by the German Social Democrat Jo Leinen and supported by the EPP (European People’s Party, centre-right), the S&D (socialists and social democrats), as well as the ALDE group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) in the European Parliament, the big political groups are trying to restructure the mechanism that allocates funding to political groups prior to the European elections in May. Amendement 86, signed by Charles Goerens (Luxembourg) on behalf of the ALDE Group and György Schöpflin (Hungary) on behalf of the EPP Group, states the following:

“Parliament need not normally evaluate the political affinity of members of a group, unless there is manifest evidence that this affinity may not exist. In that case, Parliament, by a majority of its component members, on a recommendation of the Conference of Presidents, may determine whether the group has been constituted according to political affinity.”

The key word here is “affinity”. This essentially means that if a ruling majority in the European Parliament finds the “affinity” of minority opposition groups not to be convincing, it can strip them of their funding. According to Leinen, this is supposed to avoid “fake groups” being created in the parliament who are allied for the mere purpose of funding without agreeing on much at all. While true that he EFDD, for example, does not have the same voting loyalty as the larger political groups, does that mean they should be denied the advantages of group affiliation?

Pandora’s Box

Every power given to an institution may be used against the people who implemented it in the first place. If a far-right wave sweeps the European elections, it could silence moderates in the EP by defining them as non-attached members. While there is still speaking time for non-attached members, they would lose considerable staffing and organisational funding.

EPP, S&D, and ALDE are doing just that by trying to silence Eurosceptics in the European Parliament. They are aware that it is the speaking time of people such as Nigel Farage (EFDD-UK) that have lead to viral internet videos and a growing distrust in the European Union. However, while their reasons are (according to them) pragmatic in light of what they would call “the destruction of Europe”, they also need to realise what kind of Pandora’s Box they’ve opened. This isn’t an isolated incident: the same applies to the EU budget, rules on taxation, and voting in the European Council: expect every power you give to an institution to be misused against you.

The solution

The Leinen amendment is unnecessary if political groups receive no funding in the first place. There is no reason why parliamentary groups should receive more monetary support than individual MEPs already do. However, informal political factions should be able to pool speaking time together and transfer it to an informal group leader, which can change in each debate. MEPs getting together could also use infrastructure such as rooms for conference, provided enough members sign up to it.

In so doing, we’d eliminate the unnecessary funding structure of the EP while retaining the advantages of pooling resources that actually help elected members.

This article was first published by Values4Europe.

Pictures are Creative Commons.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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