The European Parliament
The European Parliament
The European Parliament currently has 736 members from the 27 Member States and the current mandate runs until May 2014. The President of the Parliament is currently the Polish Christian Democrat MEP Jerzy Buzek, a position he will hold until January 2012.
The European Parliament has two "seats" (where it meets), one in Strasbourg where Plenary sessions take place for four days each month and Brussels where the bulk of the Committee work is undertaken as well as the work of the Political Groups. Additionally up to six short (two day) plenary sessions each year take place in Brussels. The Parliament also schedules four weeks where MEPs can undertake constituency based work. The calendar of the European Parliament is published annually to allow the planning of events and meetings, this is the calander for 2010.
Political Groups The MEPS sit in Political Groups rather than national blocks. There are currently seven such blocks:
The European People Party (265 MEPS) - EPP (Christian Democrats)
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (184 MEPS) - S&D
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (84 MEPs) – ALDE
Greens / European Free Alliance (55 MEPs)
European Conservatives and Reformists Group (55 MEPs) -
Europe of Freedom and Democracy (32 MEPs)
Additionally there are 26 independent MEPs that are either members of political parties not aligned to a particular political group or MEPs that have not followed their party into the group.
European Parliament Committees There are currently 22 different Committees of the European Parliament as well as an additional “Special” Committee on the financial, social and economic crisis. The main committees which review policies relevant to Global Health are:
· The Development Committee (DEVE)
· The Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET)
· The Human Rights Committee (DROI)
· The International Trade Committee (INTA)
· The Budgets Committee (BUDG)
· The Budgetary Control Committee (CONT)
· The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON)
· The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI)
Each of these committees will appoint a person responsible for the drafting of the committee’s opinion on each dossier. This Person is known as the “rapporteur” and for many dossiers there will also be “shadow rapporteurs” leading the contribution on the dossier from each of the political groups. The report drafted by the rapporteur is discussed in the committee and MEPs then propose amendments to this report. The position each of the political groups are to take on the report and the amendments are then discussed internally within the groups – sometimes involving political negotiations with other groups to secure compromise positions. The Committee then votes on the report and amendments and the final report as amended is passed on to the plenary. Often the opinion of a “lead” committee on a particular topic is accompanied by other opinions from other committees and these are also voted upon by the nominated “lead committee” when it adopts its report. The report is finally adopted by the Parliament by a vote in Plenary – which includes votes on amendments proposed by any of the MEPs. The size of the vote in favour of any particular position can have important implications for the decision making process if it covers legislation. In development cooperation, however, this is rarely an issue.
Inter-Groups and European Parliamentary Working Groups In addition to the work of the Committees MEPs with similar interests also come together in two kinds of groupings – Formal Inter-Groups of the European Parliament and less formal European Parliamentary Working Groups. The number of inter-groups are limited by the rules of procedure of the European Parliament which also stipulates that they meet in Strasbourg. In contrast there are no limits on the numbers of Parliamentary Working Groups.
European Parliamentary Working Groups normally have their secretariat hosted by external organisations. For example a new European Parliamentary Working group was launched on 27 January 2010 on Innovation, Access to Medicines and Poverty-Related Diseases with its secretariat hosted jointly by Global Health Advocates and Médecins Sans Frontières. This new grouping will add to the Parliamentary Working Group on Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS and Development (EPWG).