Europeans spoke. They voted to renew the European Parliament, and now the next legislature can start. It is now the real political moment of Europe. So, what next? As of today the elected candidates will have to work in order to shape their near future. This is the post-electoral phase during which MEPs negotiate to form political groups.
According to the timetable, there is time until the end June to conclude this phase. Political groups must notify their composition by the 24th of June. Meanwhile the term of the outgoing Parliament remains officially and formally in power. The new European Parliament will start functioning 1 July.
Check point Charlie
The very first thing the elected candidates must do is to prove their can be MEPs. Once the election results are official, the Member States communicate the names of those who have won a seat to the European Parliament and asks them to take the necessary measures to avoid any incompatibility of offices.
Newly-elected MEPs’ credentials are verified to establish that they do not hold another office that is incompatible with membership of the European Parliament. Incompatible offices include being a member of government or of an EU member state parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice, the European Central Bank Board of Directors, the Court of Auditors, or the European Investment Bank. Active officials of EU institutions or bodies set up under the EU treaties to manage Community funds are also barred from being MEPs.
If information and official document must have provided immediately, in-depth checks of the new MEPs’ credentials are made ex post by Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee. Its assessment is then passed to the President who informs the plenary during the next sitting.
To get the formal status of a political group, the company must consist of at least 25 MEPs, elected in at least one-quarter of the member states (i.e. at least 7). MEPs may only belong to one political group. When a group is set up, the president of European Parliament must be notified in a statement specifying the name of the group, its members and its presidium.
Political groups can hire staff and are provided with administrative facilities, funded by Parliament’s budget. Parliament’s Bureau sets the rules for how these funds and facilities are managed and audited. The funds available to the groups are intended not only to cover the administrative and operational cost of a group’s staff but also the cost of political and information activities in connection with the European Union’s political activities.
Being part of a group is not only convenient in terms of money. Non-attached MEPs cannot have the presidency of any parliamentary committee, neither can be responsible for legislative files (rapporteurs). In Plenary debate, non-attached members have less speaking time than politicians sitting in a group. That’s why political groups do matter.
Before each Plenary vote, it is the groups who examine the reports coming from the various committees, and they may propose amendments. So, the deciding engine of the EU co-legislator are the groups.
The conference of presidents
Each political group elects its own chair or chairs. The chairs together with the president of the European Parliament constitute the so-called “Conference of Presidents”.
The Conference of Presidents organizes Parliament’s business and legislative planning, decides the responsibilities and membership of committees and delegations and is responsible for relations with other EU institutions, the national parliaments and non-EU countries.
Where is my chair?
Once the groups are formed, the seats allocation can start. The decision as to organize the Chamber is taken by the Conference of Presidents at the start of each legislative term.
For the past few terms, political groups have sat like wedges in a pie chart, with the group leaders all in the first row, except when a new political group is formed half-way through the mandate.
As of the parliamentary committees, these are established by the internal regulation of the European Parliament. Committees can dissolved and create only by changing the internal regulation, which was not changed during the outgoing legislature, so the new MEPs will seat in the 20 existing bodies (plus the subcommittees for Human Rights and Security & Defence).
Electing the president
Groups must been declared the 24 June at the latest. One week after (1 July) the new Parliament starts to work. The first Plenary session is scheduled between 2 and 5 July. MEPs will first elect the new president.
Candidates for the Presidency may be proposed either by a political group or by a minimum of 38 MEPs . The election is held by secret ballot. To be elected, a candidate must win an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, i.e. 50% plus one.
If no candidate is elected at the first ballot, the same or other candidates may be nominated for a second round of voting under the same conditions. This can be repeated at a third round if necessary, again with the same rules.
If no-one is elected at the third ballot, the two highest-scoring candidates in that round proceed to a fourth ballot, where the one receiving the greater number of votes wins. (Should there be a tie at this stage, the older candidate is declared the winner).
After having elected their president, MEPs are called to elect 14 new vice-presidents and five quaestors. Secret ballot and absolute majority of the valid votes applies.