At present, a group can be formed by a minimum of 20 Members (or 2.5% of EP's membership), who also represent at least one fifth of the Member States (i.e. at least 6 countries). By approving the report by Richard Corbett (PES, UK), the House agreed to amend the rules of procedure to raise the threshold to 25 MEPs (3.3% of total membership), representing at least one quarter of the Member States (i.e. 7 Member States).
A compromise solution
During the vote in the Constitutional Affairs' committee on 26 May, an amendment proposing to raise the threshold to 30 MEPs was rejected by a majority of one vote, with 15 against and 14 in favour. A compromise was then found among most of the groups on the approved figure of 25.
Speaking in the plenary debate in Strasbourg on 7 July, Richard Corbett (PES, UK, Labour Yorkshire and The Humber) said: "At the moment, if you look around the parliaments of the world, we have one of the lowest thresholds that exist for allowing the constitution of a political group. Just 2.5% of our membership can create a political group. When you remember that constituting a group gives those Members extra resources above what ordinary Members get as a Member – extra resources as a group in terms of finance from the taxpayer, in terms of staff and in terms of procedural privileges – it should give us cause to reflect."
Special provision for groups falling below required threshold
An amendment was approved to introduce new rules on the possibility for a political group to continue to exist if it falls below the required threshold, under certain conditions.
Particularly, the President of the EP, in agreement with the Conference of groups' Presidents, can allow a group with less than the required number of Members to exist till the end of the term, if:
If there is "sufficient evidence" that this right is being abused, the President of the Parliament can avoid applying the derogation.
The adopted changes will come into effect after the June 2009 European elections. An absolute majority of MEPs is always required to approve amendments to the EP's Rules of Procedure.