Think tank event report – Who holds the power in the new European Parliament and why?

Our followers will have seen lots of tweeting activity from the conference Who holds the power in the new European Parliament and why? The Council Library was bound to attend this event hosted by CEPS – one of the main sources for our Think Tank Review – where VoteWatch Europe Director Doru Frantescu presented his report on the distribution of seats at Bureau and committee level in the new European Parliament. The panelists included two chairpersons of political groups in the EP: Manfred Weber (EPP) and Gianni Pittella (S&D).

The report concludes that

as in the previous 10 years, the biggest and older Member States still hold the majority of the EP committees’ chairs positions. However, this representation gap between big/small and old/new Member States has substantially declined after the 2014 European elections, as a result of a combination of factors including the rise of anti-EU parties in ‘old’ EU.

As regards political groups’ representation, the elections have not generated significant changes in the chairmanship of the committees. Moreover, the main political groups have consistent preferences as to what committees to chair.

Below some of other notes from the conference, supplemented with background references from our catalogue.


Commenting the results of the European elections, the speakers pointed at the results obtained by populist forces; here is a selection of our holdings related to the elusive notion of populism, which include some unpublished papers and a geographical coverage perhaps challenging received wisdom. The speakers linked the flight towards populist and extremist stances to a perceived failure of institutions to protect citizens from global pressures, ultimately posing a challenge to the institutions’ accountability.

Coming to the mechanics of how the institutions work, the speakers reflected on compromises between the major political groups in the EP (here a few articles), stressing that they are determined not only by political calculus but also by years of working together – something that is explored in the literature on socialization.

The panelists offered insights on other topical aspects of inter-institutional relations, from first-reading agreements to the extent to which the European Parliament can and should supervise Member States’ implementation of EU acts. We were particularly struck by Mr Pittella’s claim that the European Parliament is “the most transparent institution in the world”.  This library obviously has an interest to declare in this matter, but here is what the academic community says on transparency in EU institutions…


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