One of the problems with the European parliament is that it is not quite a parliament at all. Its members have no powers to introduce legislation; that is the function of the European Commission – the executive of 27 unelected grandees, one nominated by each European government (ours, a nice parting gift from Blair to Brown, is Peter Mandelson). MEPs only have limited powers to amend or block legislation in consultation with the Council of Ministers, drawn from the national governments of each member state. Beyond controlling budgets the the parliament – the only directly elected European body – concerns itself largely with talking and hoping that the commissioners, and their 16,000 civil servants, are listening.
I’m glad to see that plenty of comrades to the pro-EP cause – Corbett and Priestley -Â state the same view in the letters page of The Observer.Sorry, but has Mr Adams not taken a look at how Westminster functions recently? Yes, in theory MPs have the power to introduce a Private Member’s Bill, but in practice these almost never become laws because they are timed out. 3 were adopted in the 2005-06 parliamentary session, and all of them were proposed by Labour backbenchers (PDF from the Parliament website). So much for the active parliamentarian getting his or her legislation through.
Now it might be a little bit more complex for a British journalist to comprehend, but contrast that Westminster experience with the degree to which the Services Directive was amended by the European Parliament, led by its rapporteur Evelyn Gebhardt was able to amend the legislation to such a degree that the main component of the original draft – the Country of Origin principle – was removed. Gebhardt was also not from the main political group in the European Parliament. That doesn’t strike me as a ‘limited power to amend or block legislation’.
Plus the style of the EP’s way of working in Strasbourg is criticised, and the building is described as bewildering. Sorry, but the Houses of Parliament in Westminster are just as confusing and very much more intimidating! Plus with 1 million signatures for the petititon oneseat.eu and the British government still complicit in the scandal to keep the EP in Strasbourg (only the Member States can vote to change the seat) it’s not the EP itself that can be blamed for Strasbourg.
Then on to the Commission… I suppose it has also escaped Tim Adams’s attention that the composition of the current Commission was changed as a result of the work of the European Parliament who rejected Rocco Buttiglione’s nomination? Plus the solution to improve matters further would be to link EP elections and how the Commission President is selected. Maybe some solutions as to how to make matters better would be welcome too, rather than a rather long rant on the pages of a newspaper.