Current news about my entering the parliament
Short version: There are transtition protocols that need to be signed before we can be MEPs. France and the UK may have almost signed by now. Belgium and Greece have still not signed. It is uncertain whether there may be additional delays until the French national elections in april 2012.
”How does one become a parliamentarian when one is so young?” is a question I receive regularly. ”How does the European Parliament keep you from assuming your role as a publically elected official for so long?” is another.
They’re not keeping only me from assuming my role. There are a total of 18 Lisbon-seats, that is, seats added to the total size of the parliament (currently 736) by the Lisbon treaty, the new status of the Union (more or less), which entered into effect December 1 2009. In almost two years, many changes mandated by the treaty have not been implemented yet, among those the inauguration of the new MEPs. We come from a total of 12 European countries and represent political views from across the political spectrum in our various member states.
In spring 2010 I was contacted by L-MEP Josef Weidenholzer, an Austrian who is in the same precarious situation as myself. He suggested, and I agreed, that it was important that we collaborate to improve our situation and speed up the process of our ascension. Together with Maltese L-MEP Joseph Cuschieri (his webpage is in Maltese! one of the weirdest-looking but coolest languages of the union) we followed the first treatment of the implementation of Lisbon in the European Parliament in the Parliament constitutional committee.
It turned out that a domestic dispute in France, receiver of two additional seats according to the Lisbon treaty, regarding how they would name their extra MEPs (me, Josef and Joseph always ”knew” that when inauguration time came up, we would be representatives – France did not have specified people to fill the seats) created dissent and controversy in, of course, France, but also in the EP and the Council of Ministers – how to write the transition protocols (documents describing how the change from one treaty to the next would take place) in such a way that the French domestic dispute wouldn’t have to be solved at a European level? It took the parliament 6 months to figure this out, upon which a document called protocol 36, specifying the transition rules, started being circulated for signing and ratification by member state parliaments in summer of 2010.
Protocol 36 was signed and ratified by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, and because it constituted a change to the Lisbon Treaty (they had altered the wording of subparagraph c) in article 23, if I’m not mistakenly reminded) it needed re-approval by member state parliaments.
This re-ratification was meant to be finished by December 1 2010. For us, it meant gathering forces and getting in touch with member state parliaments to find out when the member state parliaments were planning to treat the issue. Me and L-MEP Jens Nilsson ascertained that Sweden would ratify in October, Josef Weidenholzer and Joseph Cuschieri quickly got notifications of when ratification was to occur in Austria and Malta respectively.
Joseph Cuschieri collaborated intensively with the European Parliament local office in Malta and compiled an estimated time-frame for ratification in all member states – at this point we had some form of reference document to be used for when ”lobbying” efforts were required in which member state to speed up the process as much as possible.
At some point Josef Weidenholzer too the initiative of setting up an e-mailing list!
L-MEP Kārlis Šadurskis from
Lithuanian Latvian started writing to the Lithuanian Latvian embassies of all member states to ask when or how things were moving along. (revised Jun 15 2011)
France was at this time a point of constant concern – the news from France were uncertain. What needed to happen in France for protocol 36 to be approved? There were rumours of conflicts between the French socialists and the French conservatives. Inside the European Parliament it appeared that the French socialists, currently the largest national faction inside the European socialist group S&D, were unwilling to have the European Parliament take a strong role for the installation of the new MEPs – it also seemed the Conservatives of the European Parliament (EPP) were unwilling to cross the socialists in this matter. Kārlis Šadurskis figured out that there was a constitutional change under-going and that it would be completed earliest by May 12 2011. After the constitutional change was arranged, the protocols could be treated and signed by the French president and national assembly.
At this time, when there was a more definite time-frame for France (who were always the most uncertain element in this – and still are!) the focus could be shifted again to other member states that didn’t yet sign: in April there was a number of them (Poland, Romania, Greece, UK, France, Belgium, and a few other ones).
L-MEP Anthea McIntyre provided continuous reports from the ratification processes in the UK. The road of protocol 36 in the various member states looks different depending on the parliamentary system in use: in the UK it passes between the Government, House of Commons and House of Lords and possibly someone else, where each step of the way is another cliff-hanger. The last news I’ve had from the UK are no news, which is good news – according to Anthea McIntyre the House of Lords could have objected to the ratification about 1,5 weeks ago but there have been no news of them using this privilege.
When Poland and Romania ratified about 3 weeks ago (mid-May 2011) we started talking again about trying to meet up with President Buzek from the European Parliament (whose role can be described a bit as ”spokesperson” in the Parliament – chairing plenary and representing the Parliament institutionally, not politically).
L-MEP Tomasz Makowski assigned himself the Task, by virtue of also being from Poland. President Buzek was contacted on behalf of the Polish L-MEP Arkadiusz Bratkowski. (revised Oct 23 2011).
So where does that leave us?Currently, the UK process is undergoing but probably not entirely finished (to my knowledge). In France, the office of the president must still be signing the Lisbon Protocol 36 and this has yet to happen. The news from Greece are uncertain. In Belgium, all six national parliaments must sign (Brussels parliament, Flemmish parliament, Wallonian parliament, French-speaking Community parliament (apparently Wallonia minus the German-speakers plus the French speakers of Brussels), German-speaking Community (Wallonia minus the French-speakers), federal parlament), and currently we’ve found out only of the German-Speaking Community signing the protocols about 3 weeks ago, the Flemmish parliament starting preparations to sign the protocols about 2 weeks ago and from the remaining parliaments there are no words. Given the precarious political situation of Belgium at the moment, it’s slightly uncertain what will happen when the protocols pass all parliaments – will it still need to be dealt with at the executive (federal government) level and if so how?
One last word of caution: undoubtedly it is very positive that only four member states have still to sign, two of which (UK and France) seem to only have to undertake a pure formality, but I heard in the grapevine that France may possibly want to wait with inaugurating the Lisbon-MEPs until the time that they can fill their additional two seats in the national elections next year, 2012, in April. Whether it’s within the scope of what France can or cannot do to accomplish this I don’t know. Technically, the European Parliament could have made the bureaucratic decision to include the L-MEPs as observers (a special transition-status for MEPs) last year in September (2010) but decided against after opposition from what I understood to be French politicians.