As everyone knows, the European Parliament is not a real Parliament. It is a co-legislator rather than a legislator, and does not possess the power of legislative initiative, which belongs to the Commission. This anomaly, which needs to be corrected as soon as possible, provides justification for determined action by a Parliament becoming more and more disinterested and resigned in the face of this situation.
The case of Martin Schulz: symbol of a Europe without a compass
If the media and commentators are to be believed, Mr Schulz is seeking an unjustified third mandate and distributing all kinds of honours and posts to achieve it, further reducing the few spaces for dialogue within the Parliament of 2016. If he fails in this ambition, we may see him become President of the Commission in a post-Juncker phase that many see approaching, or President of the German SPD. Is this accurate? He does not deny it! These three posts are all psychologically different, and can one person hold them? I doubt it.
In the same spirit, Mr Verhofstadt has been appointed Parliament negotiator for Brexit, even though the lead Institution will be the European Council. Admittedly the Parliament will be kept informed of how negotiations go, but its role will be limited to giving (or refusing) its consent to the outcome of talks in which it will play no part.
Straight away this creates confusion. It is the worst kind of politics; power for power’s sake.
A refusal to face up to the real problems
The more the Parliament increases its staff (today it has around 8,000 officials, including MEPs!) the more the people in its corridors seem overwhelmed by the size of its task. But it is not performing to expectations. The systematic practice of trilogues supported by the Parliament is leading to low-quality legislation.
To make matters worse, it condones the opacity of this practice by prohibiting the publication of the four-column document and preventing public access to trilogue meetings. Moreover, it supports the inevitable disappearance of legislative debates in plenary session.
We also see a new tendency of the Parliament to use its right of veto against delegated acts. This is positive (albeit rare), though we do not get the impression that MEPs are mastering secondary legislation, which is an essential element in the legislative balance of power.
While of course the big debates on Europe take place in the Parliament, you do not feel that they really have a grip on decision-making. Immigration, security, terrorism – every Institution just passes the buck.
And in the chamber there is no leader to provide the necessary direction and trace the boundaries of tomorrow’s European Union. It should be the Parliament’s job to see the positive side of Brexit and turn a threat into an opportunity.
Creating the image of a jack-of-all-trades Institution
The recent decision of the Parliament to acquire the Wiertz Museum gives off a very poor signal, one of an Institution that takes refuge in details, without explaining why it takes its decisions. One year ago, people were talking about the total renovation of the European Parliament buildings in Brussels. Today, nobody is talking about it, as if the information has become confidential, even secret.
Indeed, the information could be used by the City of Strasbourg to its advantage. Strasbourg is currently redeploying its campaign by arguing for a rejuvenation of ‘political Europe’ at the expense of the currently omnipresent ‘bureaucratic Europe’. The time for action is now!