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Carthy condemns ‘major step backwards’ for democracy in Europe

13 December, 2016 - by Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has labelled today’s vote in the European Parliament on its rules of procedure a “major step backwards for democracy in Europe”.

MEPs voted today in favour of the Corbett report to alter the Parliament’s rules of procedure in a way that restricts the rights of individual members and smaller political groups, further centralising parliamentary power in the hands of the ‘grand coalition’ of the conservative EPP group and the social democrats (S&D). 

Carthy said: “This vote has been described as representing merely technical changes that will improve efficiency in the European Parliament. But the truth is these changes will have a dramatic political impact, by undermining democratic oversight, transparency and political pluralism.

“My top concern is the empowerment in the legislative process of the so-called trilogue, described by a journalist recently as being the place ‘where European democracy goes to die’. 

“The trilogue is a supposedly ad-hoc, informal negotiation – which takes place behind closed doors with no public scrutiny – between MEPs, the Council and the Commission on the content of a legislative proposal where officials often exert pressure on MEPs to weaken progressive proposals.

“Trilogues are an undemocratic and illegitimate means of forming legislation that give undue power to the unelected officials of the Commission. This vote not only attempts to legitimise them but also means that once an agreement has been reached in trilogue, MEPs will no longer be able to amend the proposal in the plenary of the Parliament.

“Many other changes will restrict the rights of MEPs in the institutions. The ability of MEPs to question the Commission, to propose motions for resolutions, and to table amendments to legislative proposals will all be restricted. This will harm both our ability to effectively represent our constituents and to hold the Commission accountable.

“The power of the two major political groups, the conservative Christian Democrats (EPP) and the social democrats (S&D), will be further entrenched by the raising of procedural ‘thresholds’. Smaller groups such as the European United Left (GUE/NGL) that Sinn Féin is part of will have our rights reduced in several ways. One example is that the threshold for requesting an ECJ opinion on an international agreement will be raised significantly, meaning my group could no longer make this request.

“The combined impact of entrenching the empowerment of the large political groups on the one hand, and limiting the power of individual MEPs on the other, further concentrates power in the Parliament. But it also reinforces the mistaken idea that political groups with members from across the EU can sufficiently represent national interests, promoting the further federalisation of the Parliament.”

Carthy concluded: “At a time when citizens across Europe are becoming increasingly disillusioned and frustrated at the democratic deficit inherent in the European Union, this represents another step backwards for democracy in Europe."

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