The 7th legislative period in the European Parliament brings some significant changes: with regard to the political majority situation, at 55 percent the parties with close industrial ties are clearly a step ahead. Almost 50 percent of MEPs are new to the Parliament and will have to acquaint themselves first.
In the 6th legislative period, the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament (ALDE) polled over 49 percent of the votes. Now these parties, together with the new fraction “European Conservatives and Reformists” (ECR), which has splintered from the People’s Party, have about 55 percent of the seats.

The previous Social Democratic Party of Europe has given itself a new - very creative - name and is now called “Parliamentary Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament”, abbreviated S&D. It has about 25 percent of mandates. At 55 mandates, the European Greens, just like the European Conservatives, have about 7.5 % of the seats. With 35 seats, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left has a share of 4.8 percent in the European Parliament. With 4.3 percent of the votes resp. 30 mandates, the “Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group” is the smallest fraction.

EPP : Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)
S&D : Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
ALDE : Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
GREENS/ EFA : Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance
ECR : European Conservatives and Reformists Group
GUE/ NGL : Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left
EFD : Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group
NA : Non-attached

Source: European Parliament

Austria as runaway with 29.4 percent independent MEPs
The poll result in Austria was particularly remarkable at the EU elections: the list of Hans-Peter Martin with 3 mandates as well as The Freedom Party of Austria with 2 mandates do not belong to any political fraction. If the entire European Parliament with 25 MEPs accounts for about 3.5 percent without membership of a parliamentary party, Austria with 5 mandataries resp. 29.4 percent of the Austrian EU parliamentary representatives hold the absolute record of MEPs of a Member State, who cannot be allocated to a fraction. Due to the lack of other MEPs who feel attached to them or their beliefs, the MEPs, who like to be called “independent”, have hardly any influence on the legislative process in practice.

With 9 (new) of overall 17 mandataries represented in Parliament, Austria is slightly above the average of new intakes in the European Parliament: 369 MEPs were already represented in the European Parliament during the last term, 367, however, are new.

Committees: Surprisingly great influence of the Socialists & Democrats
Committees didn’t shift their competences. It is by surprise that the progressive Socialists and Democrats are chairing 8 committees, amongst others the Employment Committee, the Civil Liberties Committee, the Environment Committee and the Transport Committee. The strongest group at the European Parliament, the EPP, chairs only 7 committees, the Greens and the group “ Europe for Freedom and Democracy” 2 committees each, and the Liberals, the European Conservatives and the European United Lefts 1 committee each.

In which Committees the Austrian MEPs are to be found

Unfortunately Austrian MEPs can be found only partly in committees which are especially important for employees’ representatives:
  • There is no Austrian Member at the Employment Committee. Evelyn Regner (SPÖ) and Franz Obermayr (FPÖ) are substitute members.
  • There is also no Austrian Member at the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. Othmar Karas (ÖVP) is Substitute.
  • At the Economic Affairs Committee, Othmar Karas (ÖVP) and Hans-Peter Martin (FPÖ) are Members.
  • At the Legal Affairs Committee, Evelyn Regner (SPÖ) is Vice-President, Eva Lichtenberger is a Substitute.
  • At the Industry, Research and Energy Committee Paul Rübig (ÖVP) is Member, Hannes Swoboda (SPÖ) is Substitute.
  • Austria is extremely well represented at the Transport Committee with the Members Jörg Leichtfried (SPÖ), Eva Lichtenberger (Grüne), and Hella Ranner (ÖVP).
  • There are two Members at the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety: Karin Kadenbach (SPÖ) and Richard Seeber (ÖVP).

Other Committees where Austrian MEPs can be found as Members are:
  • The Committee for External Affairs is apparently of extreme importance for Austrian MEPs as Hannes Swoboda (SPÖ), Ernst Strasser (ÖVP), Andreas Mölzer (FPÖ) and Ulrike Lunacek (Grüne) are Members – despite the fact that the European Parliament currently has almost no say in foreign affairs issues
  • The Budgetary Committee with Angelika Werthmann (HPM)
  • The Budgetary Control Committee with Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) and Martin Ehrenhauser (HPM)
  • The Committee for Regional Development with Franz Obermayr (FPÖ)
  • The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development with Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP)
  • The Petitions Committee with Ernst Strasser (ÖVP) and Angelika Werthmann (HPM)
  • The Human Rights Committee with Jörg Leichtfried (SPÖ); and
  • The Security and Defence Committee with Ulrike Lunacek (Grüne) and Ernst Strasser (ÖVP)

Parliamentary President for the first time from the new Member States

Jerzy Buzek, the former Polish Prime Minister is the first Parliamentary President who comes from the new Member States. In accordance with an agreement between the EPP and the S&D, he will be replaced by a mandatary of the S&D at half term of the legislative period. From what we hear, the post will then be taken up by Martin Schulz, the chairman of the S&D.

Free play of forces
Although, as illustrated at the beginning of the article, EPP, ALDE and ECR together make up 404 of the mandates resp. 55 percent of the votes, there is no coalition or fixed cooperation between the fractions in the European Parliament as it is common in national parliaments. Majorities arise from draft proposal to draft proposal. Quite frequently there are even different positions within the fractions, which is also reflected in the voting behaviour. According to the fact, however, that the parties with close industrial ties have such a clear majority this will also show in the political work.

One can only wonder, what kind of results the Consumer Rights Directive or the Working Time Directive (which will probably be put on the agenda again during this legislative period) will bring. It must be feared that even more emphasis will be placed on the interests of the industry; the interests of workers and consumers could still be left out in the cold. The question, how the European Parliament will react to the draft proposals, which the Commission publishes due to the financial and global economic crisis, is also very interesting to say the least. The texts published by the Commission, on derivates for example, are quite disappointing.

The upcoming publications, for example on the European System of Financial Supervisors, on bank capital and liquidity regulations, on reviewing the Prospectus Directive, on the Directive on Investor Compensation Schemes or on the Market Manipulation Directive will show, whether the representatives of the EU Parliament have any interest in changing the previous liberal laissez-faire politics or whether they want things to remain as they are and thereby risk another financial crisis.

Further information:

European Parliament