An MEP writes

British MEP Nick Clegg has an article in today’s Guardian, putting forward the argument that MEPs and the European Parliament are a lot more powerful than people give them credit for.

But the parliament most certainly isn’t irrelevant or unimportant. In the four years I’ve been an MEP, we have adopted legislation stopping cosmetics being tested on animals, boosting recycling, forcing the French to open up their energy market, opening up travel for British pets, boosting the development of renewable energy and biofuels _ the list goes on.

It is no exaggeration to say that MEPs are now Europe’s most influential lawmakers. The European parliament is blissfully free of overweening government majorities. Individual MEPs, regardless of party affiliation, exercise a degree of direct leverage over legislation unheard of in national parliamentary systems.

However, the credibility of the Parliament is being threatened by the ‘democratic deficit’.

Yet the lack of interest in the European parliament among voters threatens its credibility. Reversing the lamentable voter turnout at next year’s Euro-elections will be a defining moment…

As with so much in the EU, the European parliament suffers from a poverty of political leadership. Europe’s leaders created it in the first place. Now they cannot simply disown their creation. Political leaders everywhere must make the case for Europe and its institutions where it counts, at home. Don’t blame Brussels for voter apathy. Blame ourselves.

However, while the European Parliament may be powerful, it does seem that Clegg finds it hard to resist the temptations of London – he’s standing down as an MEP next year to be a candidate for the next Westminster elections.

2 thoughts on “An MEP writes

  1. My feeling is that it would certainly help matters if MEPs* were elected by a first-past-the-post ballot, rather than by the sort of party list system that is commonplace in continental parliaments. As it is, there is little to link an MEP to his/her constituents, and the powers of patronage available to parties mean that party discipline can be enforced ruthlessly.

    *British MEPs, at any rate. Things might be different elsewhere in Europe.

  2. Firstly, the first past the post system is only usable in the UK, the only country with a solid bipartism ; it would be unworkable in the rest of the EU.

    Secondly, a direct link between constituent and MEP sounds good, but it has one major fault, which is the prominence of pork. Think about how hard it will be to reform the PAC if the 100 or so rural MEPs are really unwilling to do anything about it. I prefer party discipline, at least in the multiparty environment common in most of Europe. Only a handful of parties in the European Parliament are represented by more than 30 MEPs anyway.

    The bigger problem is that the press, and because of that, the European public, doesn’t give a damn about the European Parliament. It means one doesn’t build his political career much by being a MEP (even the European Commission isn’t linked to the Parliament, unlike the cabinet – parliament relationship of most countries); and that, at least in France, the European Parliament election is a national election done mostly on national themes, rather than on European policies.

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