European Elections

European Parliament

The European Parliament is elected by direct vote of EU citizens every five years, while the President is elected by this body for a renewable period of two years and a half, ie half of a legislature.

Three Spaniards have held the presidency of the European Parliament since its inception in 1958, namely, Enrique Baron Crespo (1989-1992), José María Gil-Robles (1997-1999) and Josep Borrell Fontelles (2004-2007).

The MEPs meet in groups not according to nationality, but according to their political affinities. A political group is made up of deputies elected in at least one fifth of the EU countries and has a minimum of 20 members. In the European Parliament there are now eight groups, none of which has a majority. Members who do not belong to any of these groups are called "non-attached Members.

The political groups that made up the sixth legislature of Members and their numbers are:


(Figure Composition of Parliament "from" The faces of the European Parliament 2007-2009 "published by" European Communities", 2008)

Spain has had in the sixth legislature, 52 representatives: 24 of the European People's Party, 23 of the Socialist Group, 3 in the Green Group, one part of the Confederal Group of the European United Left and one which is part of the ALDE Group .

What is the European Parliament for?

One of these MEPs recently came to Xàbia to enquire about the threat that hangs over the environment because of the expansion project proposed by a private company and the Conselleria. This is the Spanish MEP for the Greens, David Hammerstein. But the European Parliament not only works for environmental and citizen's rights causes. In fact, in most cases, the MEPs have more weight in the decision process than the EU Member States.

Many of the laws that affect our daily lives are developed at European level by MEPs and national ministers. Many of the standards in our countries are a transposition of the legislation voted on by the European Parliament.
In addition, the MEPs also decide what happens to the money from the EU: new roads, the environment, research, education, development aid …
Moreover, when you apply the new Treaty of Lisbon, the powers of EU decisions increase further, and are equal to those of Ministers of the Member States, in almost all policy areas.

The Treaty of Lisbon: Should the European Parliament have more control?

Since the the European Constitution was not ratified by Ireland, it failed and was replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon (2004). This gives the EU legal powers to sign international agreements at the community level. It is designed to improve the administrative functioning of the EU, avoiding deadlock in voting and giving more power to parliament on the decisions of individual states.

But to eurosceptics such as Declan Ganley, (the driving force behind the only pan-European party, "Libertas" , responsible for the "no" in Ireland), the Treaty of Lisbon will dilute the sovereignty of countries, in addition to losing the essence of democracy which is the direct participation of citizens. Unlike most states, where the text is passed directly to the various parliaments, voting is compulsory in Ireland through a referendum. After the victory of the "no", the Irish Government undertook a survey to better understand public opinion. The result was that 42% of respondents said they did not know the text under consideration.

Main issues to be considered for the European elections in June:

  • Life and work: do we need any further legislation which affects the balance between life and work, such as working in inensive hours, remote working, motherhood and fatherhood?
  • Porosity of our borders: immigration is important to our economy, but the growing number of illegal immigrants is a problem. At the same time, what regulations should govern those who want non-skilled jobs in Europe? How should we regulate the return of migrants to their country of origin?
  • EU Budget: What should the 116 billion euros of the EU budget be spent on? Transport and infrastructure, agriculture and environment, education, the fight for equality of ethnic minorities, research and development, the developing world's problems?
  • Consumer protection: the EU is trying to ensure food quality and proper labeling, protecting the rights of consumers, regulating the content of advertisements on TV, etc.. Do we need more?
  • Renewable energy: renewable energy policies are essential to address climate change. The European Parliament has approved a plan, the only of its kind in the world, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 20%, improve energy efficiency, and ensure that 20% of energy is renewable by 2020. What else can be done?
  • Security: since the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the subsequent attacks on Madrid and London, public safety has been a priority in the EU. They have taken many control measures, such as keeping records at airports. Has this been enough, or perhaps too much?
  • Control of Financial Markets: To what extent should the EU monitor the financial markets and inject public money into banks to help industries such as the automobile industry?
  • Non-polluting fuels: What non-fossil fuels should be developed? Bio-fuel, hydrogen, electric generators?
  • Standardization: toy safety, the security of the postal service, no animal testing of cosmetics, the emergency number 112 as pan-European, and a single charge for mobile operations. This type of measure is being introduced to facilitate standardization and free competition within the borders of Europe. But can you go too far? MEPs recently voted to protect the traditional British system of measures such as miles or pint of beer.
  • Agriculture: The EU has imposed restrictions on the use of chemicals in agriculture and genetically modified crops, while trying to support and regulate farming. But is it going in the right direction?

Adapted from Xabia al Dia Magazine: Eleciones Europeas...

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