European Parliament's centrist groups accused of a ‘smash and grab’ raid over committee chair election

Row centres on election of Lucia Nicholsonová as the new chair of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

28 Jun 2021

A furious row has flared in the European parliament over the election of Lucia Nicholsonová as the new chair of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee

She was voted through by the centrist EPP, S&D, and Renew Europe political groupings.

The Eurosceptic, anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group say, however, that the chairmanship was allocated to its group at the start of this parliamentary term and that other groups have now “reneged” on this agreement.

ECR MEPs had nominated Spanish VOX MEP Margarita de la Pisa for the post. The group said that de la Pisa, as a pharmacist and a mother of eight children, “would be the perfect person to fill the position of Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) chair.”

European Parliament Committee chairmanships are supposed to be shared among the political groups according to the d’Hondt proportional voting formula.

Earlier this year, Nicholsonová left the ECR group and joined the Liberal, pro-European Renew Europe (RE) Grouping. 

“The majority groups have orchestrated a ‘smash and grab’ raid on a post democratically allocated to another group” ECR Group co leader Raffaele Fitto

ECR says that, “given the legal service had ruled that a vacancy had arisen when Nicholsonová left the ECR, by rights it was for the ECR to nominate her successor.”

They say that the refusal to allocate the post to its group is “contrary to the relevant provisions of the Rules of Procedure and legal opinion.”

They said they had asked Nicholsonová to “decline” the nomination “as there would be serious long-term consequences on the integrity of the European Parliament with regards to fairness."

An ECR spokesman said, “We do not understand how the other groups can act in such an undemocratic way, now the legal advice is clear. The post is clearly designated for the ECR under the agreements freely made by the Parliament's Political Groups."

He added, “The assumption that Nicholsonová remains chair of the EMPL committee for the remainder of the 2.5 year term of office, after having changed political group, is not supported by a systematic reading of the relevant provisions of the Rules of Procedure.”

In electing Nicholsonová Parliament has “ignored agreements designed to uphold democratic principles of pluralism and fairness.”

“It seems the majority groups are professing to uphold democratic principles such as the Rule of Law when it suits them, and violating rules and mutual agreements when it doesn't”

The ECR’s co leader Raffaele Fitto told this site, “The majority groups have orchestrated a ‘smash and grab’ raid on a post democratically allocated to another group.” Polish ECR Group MEP Ryszard Legutko

“By refusing to honour the democratic principles that Parliament had pledged to uphold, a majority of political groups have betrayed all those who look to it for democratic leadership and have undermined its moral standing in the world.”

Polish ECR member Ryszard Legutko added, “It seems the majority groups are professing to uphold democratic principles such as the Rule of Law when it suits them, and violating rules and mutual agreements when it doesn't.”

“Parliament likes to see itself as a moral force in international relations, defending principles of democracy and human rights. And yet, when it suits their own political purposes, it seems the commitment of the major groups to these principles is just rhetoric.”

“We would also like to remember that in all democratic parliaments – as in Poland, for example – it is good practice to allocate committee chairs according to proportional representation. It is a great tragedy for the cause of freedom and democracy around the world that the role of the Parliament has been compromised in this way and its reputation sullied by such actions.”

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