Is it a new era for European Parliament?

After the drama with Juncker, would you say that new EP will try to influence the EU politics as much as possible, can we expect some tensions between EU institutions? Read few comments.

Jost-Henrik Morgenstern, Postgraduate Researcher, Loughborough University

The European Parliament has come out of the Juncker episode strengthened and I would argue that this is irrespective of the substance of the political agenda that the European Council will set for the European Commission. Inter-institutional tensions are nothing new and are built into the system. There should be nothing particularly worrying about these tensions during the next parliament. The EP’s direct counterpart is the Council and during legislative work the fight about Juncker will cease to be a determining factor. Substantive divisions between Council and EP majority will be what shapes the legislative outcomes of the next parliament.

And the EP will also be busy dealing with its new internal composition. While nationalist and eurosceptic parties will not be able to stop ‘business as usual’ in the EP, they will make a lot more noise than in the last term. It’s a good opportunity for the pro-Europeans to sharpen their message. Maybe MEPs will finally find new ways of engaging with the arguments put forward by UKIP, Front National and others, which have swayed a lot of Europeans in the election.

Gerard Roland, Professor of Economics and Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

I think that the political innovation that took place will have a far-reaching effect on European politics. Previously, there was hardly any link between the choice of voters in the European elections and the choice of the Commission and its policies. The innovation is that European party groups introduced the “German” system whereby each party group presents their candidate for the Commission. The EPP got the most seats so their candidate was chosen. This is a close replication of the German system. I thus expect the Commission to become more accountable to voters, and also to have a better  relation between the Commission and the European Parliament. I guess that there might be more tension between the European Parliament and the commission on one hand, and the European Council on the other hand. This is not necessarily the case however given the increasing German leadership in the Council. The Franco-German engine is being replaced by German leadership de facto and Juncker is of the same party group as the German CDU-CSU led by Merkel and Schäuble. For me, essentially the nomination of Juncker is a big step for EU citizens and for EU democracy as their vote for EU institutions now will matter much more.

John O’ Brennan, Lecturer, European Politics and Society, Director, Centre for the Study of Wider Europe, National University of Ireland Maynooth NUIM

The appointment of Jean Claude Juncker demonstrated once again how powerful a player the European Parliament has become in EU politics. With each successive constitutional revision (new Treaty) it has been the Parliament that has emerged as the big winner (since at least the Single European Act in 1987) and the oversight it now exercises over key EU appointments is the twin side of an increasingly assertive ‘coin’, the other being the power it enjoys as ‘co-legislator’ with the Council on almost all EU legislation.

For me one of the interesting elements of the battle over Juncker was to observe how British politicians and even respected media commentators cling to this perception of the Parliament as a ‘talking shop’, as a ‘toothless tiger’ in a system they believe is (or should be) dominated by executive privilege i.e national governments and purely national interests as asserted in the Council and European Council. I have lost count of the number of times I have shared a radio slot with UK journalists/commentators and had to correct them in their caricatured view of what the European parliament is and does within the European integration process.

Cameron underestimated the determination of those in the major political groupings to operationalize the Spitzenkandidaten model. And if indeed Angela Merkel wavered somewhat she was outflanked by Juncker, Schultz and their colleagues. The very fact that she went to the European People’s Party Congress in Dublin in the spring meant that she tacitly endorsed not  only Juncker, but this entirely new method of appointing the President of the European Commission.

The language of the Treaty is as I am sure you are aware somewhat ambiguous  on the procedure (‘shall take into account the results of the elections to the European Parliament’) but nevertheless the Parliament pressed for a ‘maximalist’ interpretation of this section and it won. I think we should see this as a gradual and cumulative process through which the Parliament first claimed a right to be consulted on key appointments and then, formally, through the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, gained a concrete foothold over the selection process. With each successive constitutional reform we see the Parliament’s power over the appointments process strengthened.

I think we are in for a very interesting set of confirmation hearings (of Commissioner-designates). More and more these hearings are taking on the form of those of senior Cabinet and Judicial figures in the United States where Congress can really flex its muscles. And we saw previously with the threatened rejection of Rocco Buttligione, the Italian candidate and of the 2009 Bulgarian candidate, a determination to convert oversight into impact. Governments are going to have to be very careful with their selection of candidates for Commission portfolios (in conjunction with Juncker of course) as they now know that the Parliament is more than willing to block candidates it sees as inappropriate. So, if you like, the first indication of this new power of the Parliament (although it is not exactly new) will come in the confirmation hearings. I expect some candidates will be rejected or threatened with rejection and that will cause more controversy and more tension with national governments.

Beyond that I think we will also see the Parliament being more aggressive and assertive in its dealings with the Commission and Council on the legislative track. That simply flows from having won this major ‘battle’ over jurisdiction and privilege.

But a lot of this is of course contingent on the two major party groupings, the EPP and the S and D to form a workable partnership. No doubt the additional members of the ECR will prove themselves troublesome and the Farages and Le Pens will be shouting from the rooftops at every opportunity. But assuming we do get a ‘grand coalition’ I would imagine the Parliament will incrementally advance again. But there are a lot of Mr Rumsfeld’s ‘unknowns’ here: the EU simply cannot go on with business as usual, fighting these (for most people) arcane institutional turf wars while much of the continent is still undergoing terrible social problems. There will have to be some major policy initiatives aimed at balancing social with economic integration and the Parliament may well get to play a constructive role there.

Emmanuel SigalasAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Institute for Advanced Studies/Institut für Höhere Studien

The EP has used nearly every opportunity it had to make its voice heard and to appear as an institution that counts and that should be taken into consideration. Given that Juncker will in all likelihood become the next Commission president, I don’t expect any extraordinary tension between the EP and any other EU institution.

Having said that, what’s interesting is what will happen in the EP now that we have many more Eurosceptic MEPs than before. I suspect the widespread Euroscepticism across Europe (reflected also in the new EP composition) will force the EP to tone down even further its pro-integration rhetoric (and possibly also its agenda).



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