Kassandra has learned with astonishment that the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs is about to deliver an early Christmas gift to Steve Bannon.
At the Committee’s extraordinary October 22 meeting in Strasbourg, members will probably have to examine a proposal seeking to revise the rules that govern the formation of parliamentary groups, found in the relevant Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament.
Although not on the published agenda of the Committee meeting, a plenary vote on amendments to the Rules of Procedure is forecast for October 24 according to the Parliament’s website, with a committee decision pending.
Now or later, let’s take a peek.
Current criteria under Rule 32 require a minimum of 25 MEPs from at least one-quarter of the Member States (that’s seven) for any grouping to qualify as an official Group, entitled to claim EU funds.
Under the amendment tabled by German Socialist MEP Jo Leinen, “[n]o more than one-quarter of the members of a political group shall be elected in one Member State.” That essentially means that no party can represent more than 25% of the Group’s members.
The rationale behind the proposal is to make it even harder for extremist, populist or parties that do not belong to the establishment to create formations eligible for Parliament funding, which is exactly the reason why the current rules were instituted in the first place starting with the 2009-2014 term.
If the rulebook is amended to that effect, the groups that seem to be the target, namely the ECR, the EFDD and the ENF, will not be able to reconstitute as such, if current vote projections hold (According to current rules, if a group fails to fulfil any of the criteria, it is up to the Parliament’s President, “with the agreement of the Conference of Presidents,” to permit its formation).
And here comes the question: in the absence of an option to form a group, wouldn’t the parties that currently belong to those groups, form a large, united group to the right of the EPP, united by their opposition to the establishment’s newly-found vigilance (or rather, desperate and suicidal attempt at self-protection), in spite of their differences? That will mean that the proposal under consideration will achieve exactly what it seeks to prevent. AFCO members seem to be shooting themselves in the foot. That “United Right”, under current estimates, could have as much as 158 MEPs, 20 shy of the EPP’s 178, and far ahead of a trailing S&D.
No wonder Bannon is preparing to pop those champagne corks. According to our sources, the EPP Group have done their math and appear cautious. S&D and ALDE seem to be ignoring the danger, marching on, earmuffs on. As Kassandra remembers, weren’t ALDE the group that opposed the current rules 10 years ago, deeming them undemocratic?
Electoral fights are fought door-to-door, not by changing the rules of the game in committee meeting rooms in Strasbourg. Wasn’t this secrecy and blindness that first drove Europeans away from establishment parties? It seems that some lessons are hard to learn.