Frequently Asked Questions about the transition from the 8th to the 9th European Parliament
The information in this FAQ complements the general Press Kit on the European Elections 2019.
What’s on the agenda of Parliament’s constituent sitting of the 9th term (from 2 to 4 July 2019)?
Voters in the EU will elect new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) during the
European elections of 23 to 26 May. The newly elected MEPs, representing EU citizens until 2024, will meet in Parliament’s constituent sitting in plenary from 2 to 4 July. They will then elect their President, 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors. They will also decide on the numerical composition of Parliament’s standing and subcommittees - thus launching the new (9th) legislative term. In the following weeks, the committees will hold their first meetings to elect their respective Chairs and Vice-Chairs.
- Electing Parliament’s new President
- Electing Parliament’s Vice-Presidents and Quaestors
- Forming Parliament’s committees
Why will the first session start on a Tuesday?
Parliament’s Rules of Procedures lay down that Parliament must meet on the first Tuesday after the period of a month after the European elections have been held (Rule of Procedure 146, paragraph 2).
Rule 146 : Convening of Parliament
- In accordance with the first paragraph of Article 229 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Parliament shall meet, without requiring to be convened, on the second Tuesday in March each year. It shall itself determine the duration of adjournments of the session.
- In addition, Parliament shall meet, without requiring to be convened, on the first Tuesday after expiry of an interval of one month from the end of the period referred to in Article 10(1) of the Act of 20 September 1976.
- The Conference of Presidents, stating its reasons, may alter the duration of the adjournments decided pursuant to paragraph 1 at least two weeks before the date previously fixed by Parliament for resuming the session. The resumption of the session shall not, however, be postponed by more than two weeks.
- At the request of a majority of its component Members or at the request of the Commission or the Council, the President shall, after consulting the Conference of Presidents, convene Parliament on an exceptional basis.
The President shall have the right, with the approval of the Conference of Presidents, to convene Parliament on an exceptional basis in cases of urgency.
Who will chair the first sitting?
The sitting at which a new President is elected will be chaired by the outgoing President or, if that is not possible, by one of the outgoing Vice-Presidents (to be determined according to their order of precedence), or, in the absence of any of them, by the Member who has held office for the longest period.
The European Parliament elects its President from among its Members.
Rule 14 : Provisional Chair
- At the sitting provided for under Rule 146, and at any other sitting held for the purpose of electing the President and the Bureau, the outgoing President or, failing him or her, one of the outgoing Vice-Presidents, determined in accordance with their order of precedence, or, in the absence of any of them, the Member having held office for the longest period shall take the chair until the President has been elected.
- No business shall be transacted while a Member is provisionally in the chair by virtue of paragraph 1 unless it concerns the election of the President or the verification of credentials under the second subparagraph of Rule 3. Any other matter relating to the verification of credentials raised when he or she is in the chair shall be referred to the committee responsible.
How is the President elected?
Candidates for the presidency may be put forward either by a political group or by 1/20th of Members, i.e. 38 MEPs (“low threshold” introduced by the revised Rules of Procedure). The election is held by secret ballot (Rule 15).
MEPs vote by indicating their preferred candidate on a paper ballot and placing it in a ballot box. The process is overseen by eight tellers, chosen by lot from among MEPs. To be elected, a candidate must win an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, i.e. 50% plus one (Rule 16).
Blank or spoiled ballots do not count in calculating the majority required. If no candidate is elected in the first round of voting, the same or other candidates can be nominated for a second round under the same conditions. This can be repeated in a third round if necessary, again with the same rules.
If no-one is elected at the third ballot, the two highest-scoring candidates in that round proceed to a fourth ballot, where the one receiving the greater number of votes wins. The newly-elected President then takes the chair and may make an opening address before presiding over the election of the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors.
How are the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors elected?
After the election of the President, Parliament will elect the other two main political bodies necessary for the functioning of Parliament's activities, in the following order: the 14 VicePresidents and then the five Quaestors.
Nominations are made on the same basis as for the President (Rule 15). The 14 VicePresidents are elected in a single ballot by an absolute majority of votes cast. If the number of successful candidates is less than 14, a second vote is held to assign the remaining seats under the same conditions. If a third vote is necessary, a simple majority is sufficient to fill the remaining seats. (Rule 17)
Vice-Presidents take precedence in the order in which they are elected and, in the event of a tie, by age. If voted by acclamation, a vote by secret ballot determines the order of precedence.
The election of Quaestors follows the same procedure as that for the election of VicePresidents. In practice, the political groups aim to ensure that the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors broadly reflect the numerical strength of the groups and take into account the results of the President's election.
When will we know which MEPs go to which committee?
In its constituent sitting (2-4 July), Parliament will also decide the numerical composition of its committees, based on a proposal from the Conference of Presidents (CoP). The CoP proposal is submitted to plenary for approval (simple majority).
The nominations will be decided by the political groups and announced to the plenary during the first plenary session (no vote, according to the Appendix to Rules of Procedure) The committees meet in the following week for their constitutive meetings to elect their Chairs and Vice-Chairs. They are set up for 2.5 years.
Committees amend legislative proposals through the adoption of reports, propose amendments to plenary and appoint a negotiation team to conduct negotiations with the Council on EU legislation. They also adopt own-initiative reports, organise hearings with experts and scrutinise the other EU bodies and institutions.
How many members will be in each committee?
In the 8th term, a committee consisted of between 25 and 73 full members and an equivalent number of substitutes. The numerical composition of the committees for the 9th term will be decided in the first plenary session based on a proposal from the Conference of Presidents.
Who chairs the committees?
In their constitutive meeting, each committee elects a chair and up to four vice-chairs from among its full members, forming together the ‘committee bureau’, for a two and a half year mandate. The political make-up of the committees reflects that of the full House.
Are there other committees?
Parliament can also set up sub-committees and special temporary committees to deal with specific issues, and it may create committees of inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions or maladministration of EU law.
Special committees in the 2014-2019 term:
- TAXE - Tax Rulings and Other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect (work completed on 30 November 2015)
- TAX2 - Tax Rulings and Other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect (work completed on 2 August 2016)
- TAX3 - Financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (work completed on 28 March 2019)
- TERR - Terrorism (work completed on 14 November 2018)
- PEST - EU authorisation procedure for pesticides (work completed on 12 December
Committees of inquiry in the 2014-2019 term:
- EMIS - Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (work completed on 4 April 2017)
- PANA - Money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (work completed on 13 December 2017)
At the conciliation stage, a specific Conciliation Committee is set up. Conciliation is the third and final phase of the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (OLP) (also known as ‘codecision’). The conciliation procedure is opened if Council does not approve all the amendments adopted by the Parliament at second reading.
The Conciliation Committee consists of two delegations: the Council delegation, composed of one representative of each Member State (ministers or their representatives), and the Parliament delegation, composed of an equal number of MEPs. The Conciliation Committee is responsible for drawing up a ‘joint text’, which then has to be endorsed by both Parliament and the Council.
Who coordinates the committees’ work?
What are political groups and how are they formed?
- a political group must consist of at least 25 MEPs elected in at least one one-quarter of the member states (i.e. at least 7)
- by forming a group, MEPs accept by definition that they have political affinity - a political declaration, setting out the purpose of the group is included in the statement sent to the President
- negotiations will start as of 27 May
- to be recognized as of 2 July, political groups have to notify their composition by 1 July
- a political group can be created at any time during the legislature
What are the requirements to form a political group?
After the elections, MEPs form political groups. These groups bring together MEPs from different Member States on the basis of their political affinities. Groups can also be formed later during the Parliament mandate. At the end of the 8th term, there are 8 political groups in the European Parliament.
To get the formal status of a political group it must consist of at least 25 MEPs, elected in at least one-quarter of the member states (i.e. at least 7). MEPs may belong to one political group only. When a group is set up, the President of Parliament must be notified in a statement specifying the name of the group, its members and its presidium and a political declaration, setting out the purpose of the group.
Normally, Parliament does not assess the political affinity of group members. By forming a group, MEPs accept by definition that they have political affinity. It is only when this is denied by the MEPs concerned themselves that Parliament will have to evaluate whether the group has in fact been constituted in conformity with the rules.
How are political groups funded?
Political groups can hire staff and are provided with administrative facilities, funded by Parliament's budget. Parliament’s Bureau sets the rules for how these funds and facilities are managed and audited. The funds available to the groups are intended not only to cover the administrative and operational cost of a group's staff but also the cost of political and information activities in connection with the European Union's political activities.
The budget may not be used to finance any form of European, national, regional or local electoral campaign or to finance political parties at national and European level or their dependent bodies.
Not all MEPs sit in a group. Those who do not, are called “non-attached" members. They also are entitled to staff and have rights under the rules set out by the Bureau.
Who are the political group chairs and how are they elected?
In the European Parliament 8th term there are 8 political groups in the European Parliament. Each political group elects its own chair or chairs. The political group chairs and the EP president constitute the EP Conference of Presidents. The Conference of Presidents organizes Parliament’s business and legislative planning, decides the responsibilities and membership of committees and delegations and is responsible for relations with other EU institutions, the national parliaments and non-EU countries.
Who are the political group coordinators in committees and how are they elected?
The political groups elect “coordinators” for the parliamentary committees. They are each group’s political leader in the committee. They coordinate their group’s viewpoint on the topics before the committee, and together with the chair and the vice-chairs, they organise the work in the committee.
How are the credentials of new MEPs verified?
Newly-elected MEPs' credentials are verified to establish that they do not hold another office that is incompatible with membership of the European Parliament. Incompatible offices include being a member of government or of an EU member state parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice, the European Central Bank Board of Directors, the Court of Auditors, or the European Investment Bank. Active officials of EU institutions or bodies set up under the EU treaties to manage Community funds are also barred from being MEPs.
Once the election results are official, the Member States communicate the names of those who have won a seat to the EP and asks them to take the necessary measures to avoid any incompatibility of offices.
Before taking their seats, new MEPs whose election has been notified to Parliament must declare in writingthat they do not hold any office incompatible with that of an MEP. This declaration needs to be made no later than six days before Parliament's constitutive sitting.
The new MEPs' credentials are checked ex post by Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee, which draws up a decision based on the information provided by the Member States. The decision is then passed to the President who informs the plenary during the next sitting. Other than checking the credentials, Parliament also rules on any disputes pursuant to the Act of 20 September 1976, except those based on national electoral laws.
Where it is established that an MEP holds an incompatible office, Parliament "shall establish that there is a vacancy."
How are the Commission President and Commissioners appointed?
- Commission President
The European Parliament elects the Commission President. First opportunity is the July II session (15.-18. July).
After the elections, one of the first tasks of an incoming Parliament is to elect a new President of the European Commission (the EU’s executive body). Member states nominate a candidate for the post, but in doing so, they must take account of the European election results. Moreover, Parliament needs to approve the new Commission President by an absolute majority (half of the existing MEPs plus one). If the candidate does not obtain the required majority, the member states need to propose another candidate within a month's time (European Council acting by qualified majority). For the 2014 elections, Parliament introduced the system of lead candidates. Each European political party put forward a candidate for Commission president and the party which became the biggest in the elections and could garner a majority in Parliament, could propose Parliament’s candidate for the nomination for the Commission leadership.
- Commission President
Candidates for the other Commission portfolios have to go through a tough parliamentary vetting process.
The Council, in agreement with the Commission President-elect, adopts a list of candidate commissioners, one for each member state. These Commissioners-designate appear before parliamentary committees in their prospective fields of responsibility (hearings will probably take place in October). Each committee then meets to draw up its evaluation of the candidate's expertise and performance, which is sent to the Conference of Committee Chairs. The Conference of Committee Chairs sent the evaluation letters to the President of the Parliament and it is to the Conference of Presidents to close the hearings. A negative evaluation can prompts candidates to withdraw from the process. The full Commission, including the Commission President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, then needs to be approved in a single vote of consent by Parliament. After the President and Commissioners have been approved by Parliament, they are formally appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.
In the event of a substantial portfolio change during the Commission's term of office, the filling of a vacancy or the appointment of a new Commissioner following the accession of a new member state, the Commissioner concerned is heard by the relevant committee as well.
How many MEPs will the new Parliament have?
The new composition of the European Parliament (with 705 MEPs) will only enter into force if and when the UK is no longer a member of the European Union.
As long as the UK is still a member state, the current composition (751 MEPs) will continue to apply.
Should the old composition (751) still apply at the beginning of the 9th term, the new composition will apply immediately at the later date of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom
(from 751 to 705 MEPs).
For Member States granted additional seats in the new composition and 9th legislature of the
EP (Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Croatia, Estonia), these seats would only become available after the UK’s departure.
Art 3.2 of the June 2018 EUCO decision on the composition of the European Parliament:
"However, in the event that the United Kingdom is still a Member State of the Union at the beginning of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, the number of representatives in the European Parliament per Member State taking up office shall be the one provided for in Article 3 of the European Council Decision 2013/312/EU (2) until the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union becomes legally effective.
Once the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the Union becomes legally effective, the number of representatives in the European Parliament elected in each Member State shall be the one provided for in paragraph 1 of this Article.
All representatives in the European Parliament who fill the additional seats resulting from the difference between the number of seats allocated in the first and second subparagraphs shall take up their seats in the European Parliament at the same time."