Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The closing of transparency in the EP

One of the things that most astounds even neutral visitors to the European Parliament in plenary session is the system of voting. 

Not only are at times hundreds of votes conducted at such a trot that mistakes are made at a phenomenal rate (one only has to look at the number of vote changes made as tardy or sonambulent MEPs realise that they have voted for this or that) but more importantly the vast percentage of votes that pass by show of hands. 

What this means of course is that there is no way at all for the general public to know how their MEP voted in any given vote. Votes are not counted unless somebody complains and there is an electric count. The late, great Graham Booth had great sport pointing out the failings of this system,
 “During voting on a report by Mr. Kaczmarek on EU partnership in the Horn of Africa, amendment No. 5 was declared ‘Rejected’ by the chairman Vidal-Quadras, having assessed the show of hands ‘for’ and ‘against’ the amendment.
The call for an electronic check revealed that it had actually been APPROVED by no less than 567 votes to 17 (with 18 abstentions).
He blamed the MEPs for ‘not holding their hands high enough’!
I close my case.”
But today the Parliament surpassed itself. You see, the only way in which we can find out how MEPs have voted is if somebody calls for a Roll Call Vote. which happens less than 20% of the time. But this is too much for the Parliament, too much light let in on the majesty.

Here it is, dull isn't it?
Stanimir Ilchev - Report on amendment of Rule 48 (2) of Parliament's Rules of Procedure on own-initiative reports(2011/2168(REG))
But what it means is the following,
Request for roll call vote should only be allowed for the final vote,
Or in other words, you lot, the proles, must not know who votes for what, but only a general position.
Oh it is presented as a money saving thing, printing of all those votes, all that paper you know, in 23 languages. They have of course never heard of the ruddy internet, everything could be done digitally, and thus automatically.

But the bottom line is that this is a deliberate attempt to ensure that the citizen cannot know what his or her elected representative is up to. It is just in reference (for now) for own initiative reports that have no legislative impact. But how long before the same rule is imposed for legislative reports?

If there was to be a serious reform it should be twofold.
1. All votes should be by roll call.
2. The abolition of own initiative reports (INI Reports).
The INI report system is a redundant, superfluous thing. An appendix in the body politic of the European Union. It was useful (maybe) when the European Parliament had no power, to allow the MEPs to say what they wanted to say, but today, after the Lisbon Treaty, the Constitution redux, the Parliament has significant and growing powers. It no longer needs these self indulgent, expensive vanity projects.

Much like the EDM system in the UK, but far more expensive and irrelevant they should be abolished. After all what are they for?

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