A period of turmoil and transition in Brussels inevitably followed the May 2014 European Elections. 751 Members of the European Parliament were elected in total, from across the 28 EU Member States, meeting together for the first time at a full Plenary session in the first week of July. The weeks immediately following the elections were set aside for meetings to establish, or re-establish, the various political groupings that will operate in the European Parliament throughout the next 5 years. Also during the transition weeks, MEPs were negotiating to be assigned to the specific subject committees and delegations in which they will do most of their legislative work.
Shortly after the elections, MEPs of the European Free Alliance (EFA) Group met in Brussels to assess the election results, and to formally re-establish our arrangement with the European Greens to continue the Greens/European Free Alliance Parliamentary Group.
There are seven EFA MEPs, the same number as in the previous parliamentary term, and the total strength of the G/EFA Group is currently 50 MEPs from a total of 17 EU member states. The EFA members have agreed unanimously on the election of office-bearers for the new session. Josep Maria Terricabras, of Catalunya, is the new EFA President. Mr Terricabras was elected to the European Parliament in May as part of L'Esquerra pel Dret a Decidir – an alliance of Catalan parties supporting independence for Catalunya. He is a professor of Philosophy at the University of Girona. EFA Vice Presidents are MEPs Ian Hudghton and Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru). At the time of writing, seven political groupings were able to meet the minimum criteria by signing up at least 25 MEPs, representing at least seven member states.
It is not just at the European Parliament where a process of reorganisation takes place following the 5-yearly elections. Governments of the 28 EU Member States each have the right to propose a candidate to the European Commission. In addition, the coveted positions of President of the European Commission and President of the European Council need to be filled. Although the Member State governments have the power to nominate the new Commissioners and Presidents, the European Parliament will vote on the nominations, and has the power to accept or reject the proposals.
The whole process has an added dimension this time, due to a phrase in the Lisbon Treaty suggesting that the results of the EP elections should be taken into account in the choice of Commission President. Whilst the Treaty's reference to taking into account the elections is extremely vague, a majority in the EP have interpreted it as justifying Jean Claude Juncker's nomination on the basis of the EPP Group's relative electoral success. They are the largest group, but not by a wide margin.
At the time of writing, with new twists and many rumours arising daily, it looks increasingly likely that the EPP and the European Socialist Party (PSE) will attempt to cut a deal whereby Juncker will be backed for Commission Presidency in return for Martin Shultz (PSE) retaining the EP Presidency. The smaller groups, as well as some MEPs in the 2 largest groups, are accordingly beginning to voice concern over this proposed carve up.
Amid all the horse-trading, the sensible member states will be working to achieve benefits for themselves from the whole process, while David Cameron looks like isolating himself in a losing position. Bring on the day when Scotland can be one of the sensible member states, constructively negotiating with EU partners and looking after our own national interests properly in the process.