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In May of this year, citizens of European Union Member States went to the polls to elect a new European Parliament for the next five years.

POSTED: 15th October 2014
IN: Business news
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The results of the elections clearly showed a strong appetite for change and have resulted in a shift in balance of parties in the EU parliament, with national parties coalescing to form Groups with shared political aspirations.

Despite the changes that the elections brought, the two largest groups remain the centre right European Peoples Party (EPP) and the centre left Socialists & Democrats (S&D), however the centrist ALDE Group were relegated to fourth largest behind the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). The outcome of the elections point towards a grand coalition between the two largest parties, however even the two largest groups EPP and S&D voting together they would only have a small majority of 54% and it is likely that other groups, including non-aligned MEPs, are likely to have a significant impact on legislation passing through the parliament.

This is likely to have a significant impact on European law making as the European Parliament’s influence on legislation has grown significantly in recent years. The Parliament acts as a co-legislator alongside the Council of the European Union, which is made up of the relevant Ministers of the European Member State. The normal legislative process sees the European Commission, which solely holds the right of initiative, presenting a proposal to both the parliament and the Council for consideration, both bodies must then agree on the final legislation before it becomes EU law. 

The summer brought more excitement in Europe with the decision to appoint former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker as the new President of the European Commission.

Finally in September, after much consideration Mr Juncker unveiled his new look College of Commissioners. The College of Commissioners is made up by 28 nominations, including the President, with each Member State nominating one Commissioner. The key drawback to this structure is a large number of directorates leading to a proliferation of policy and a silo mentality.

Mr Juncker’s answer to this dilemma has been to appoint seven Vice Presidents who will act as Team Leaders over 7 key priority projects including Better Regulation; Energy Union; Budgets & Human Resources; Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness; The Euro & Social Dialogue; Digital Single Market; Foreign Policy. Vice-Presidents will coordinate the work of a number of Commissioners. This will ensure a dynamic interaction of all Members of the College, breaking down silos. Each will act as a filter, with proposals only being presented to the full College of Commissioners once approved by the relevant VP.

Finally a new post has been created in a First Vice-President (Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands), who will be the right-hand of the President. This is the first time a Commissioner dedicated to a Better Regulation agenda has been appointed, guaranteeing that every proposal is truly required. This post also carries a veto right with the First Vice-President able to stop any initiative, including legislative initiative, coming from a commissioner’s team.

The next steps for the EU are for each of the nominated Commissioners to attend hearings with relevant Committees of the European parliament, and then for the Parliament to ratify the whole College. It remains to be seen whether the Parliament will approve of the appointments and even harder to predict is how the new Commission structure will operate in the day to day business of Brussels, however what is clear is that Mr Juncker has heeded calls from industry, including EEF, for a Commission with support for industry, growth and job creation at its heart.

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