European Parliament: How To Make Oneself Irrelevant

The biggest event of last week’s European Parliament plenary session was in fact a non-event: Parliament failed to agree on a common position on the European Commission’s Annual Work Programme for 2015. This is pretty bad news for the Parliament itself whose mantra for last year’s European elections was “This time it’s different”. By its inability to carry out one of the most basic functions of a parliament, form an opinion on the legislative programme of the executive, the EP has fallen at the first hurdle and demonstrated clearly that “This time it’s business as usual”.

Having pulled off a constitutional coup by imposing on Member States its choice for Commission President via the much-ballyhooed ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ process, Parliament has now dropped the catch and risks making itself irrelevant and leaving EC President Jean-Claude Juncker to carry out his 2015 programme without needing to take into account what the elected representatives of the people think of it.

Parliament, it appears, was not able to make up its mind about whether the Work Programme proposed by Juncker was good, bad or indifferent. It neither agrees nor disagrees, it just says nothing so Juncker will just ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’, regardless. But hang on, didn’t Juncker claim that his legitimacy stemmed from a broad-based coalition in the EP? Where is it now, the grand coalition between centre-right (EPP) and centre-left (S&D) parties, supported by the opportunistic centre (ALDE) that was created to secure the posts of Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President, Martin Schulz as President of the EP and a couple of extra EP committee chairs for the Liberals? Can it be that the top posts with the big salaries, chauffeur-driven cars and power to parachute your pals into plum posts having been shared out, there is nothing left on which the EPP, S&D and ALDE groups could agree?

What Jean-Claude Juncker said years ago when, as Prime Minister of Luxembourg, he represented his country in meetings of the European Council remains true during his tenure as Commission President: “We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”

No, the Parliament isn’t kicking up a fuss. It prefers abdicating its responsibility in the area of its most important Treaty-based power, shaping EU legislation, and instead dealing with trivial issues where it has absolutely no legal competence, LGBT rights in Kyrgyzstan…