With dwindling prospects of electoral victory in the 2019 European elections, the Party of European Socialists is looking for ways to dig their nails deep anywhere they still hold some power.

At a time where Europe needs not only more accurate and adequate representation in the Eurocapital of Brussels, the Socialists are seeking to consolidate their power in one of the few places they have some left… The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) –  the EU’s political assembly of local and regional representatives.

As all institutions are looking to reform and readjust their internal procedures in order to simply better serve the citizens, and better reflect their democratic will, the PES in the CoR has sought to do just the opposite.

The CoR structure is quite complex – as in all the EU bodies. In the CoR, just as in the European Parliament, there are certain minimum requirements for a Group to be formed (and reap the structural and financial benefits from being a Group). Currently, the rules are in the CoR that for a Group to exist, it needs to have at least 18 members from at least one fifth of the member states (6 countries currently). Of the 18 members, at least 9 have to be full members. There is no pardon period if a group falls below this threshold temporarily, meaning it simply ceases to exist the minute any of the criteria are not met. The composition of the CoR, for those who might not remember, is 350 full members, and 350 alternate members, all of which are appointed by the Council on the nomination of their member states based on their respective size.

In an internal document seen by New Europe, the PES Group – seeing that two Groups are of smaller size than the rest, have suggested that Groups will need a minimum of 18 full members – doubling the current requirements. Currently, of the 5 Groups in the CoR, the two smallest ones are the European Alliance with 22 full members and 15 alternate, and the ECR with 18 full members and 20 alternate.

There are two issues for both these parties:

(a) after Brexit, every single Group in the CoR except the EPP will lose members.

(b) the CoR mandates are not aligned with EU elections, which means that as different local and regional elections take place, new members have to be selected by the Member States and appointed by the Council. In the past these appointments have been known to sometimes take over a year.

With the rules as the Socialists would like them, 2 of the 5 political groups in the CoR can cease to exist over night just because they might have to wait for new people to be appointed.

The Socialists – who see some potential members sitting in the European Alliance Group would like nothing more than to see both parties cease to exist as they would benefit twofold – from the members they will take from the EA Group, and the eradication of a potential third left-leaning Group being created by Greens. Furthermore, a potential En Marche grouping being created that could take members away from groupings like PES is playing in the background.

Though this is in fact a small politics power grab, it ultimately would result in a European body that reflects the demographic and democratic make-up of Europe less accurately. At a time where more democracy is required, this is a questionable plan.

For now, the main power in the CoR, the EPP Group is watching, and waiting. Though all is fair in love and (politics), it will be interesting to see if the EPP Group – which would have enough power if they aligned with the Socialists to make this change – treats this as a matter of European and democratic principle, or consolidation of power.