Today’s Movers & Shakers are about: Several UKIP MEPs quit to join the new Brexit Party, the ECR and ALDE welcome new MEPs, highlights from the last plenary session of the term, the top two Spitzenkandidaten go head-to-head, Estonian coalition approved, Finnish parliamentary election results and more!
Three UK Independence Party (EFDD) MEPs have defected to Nigel FARAGE’s new Brexit Party. Jill SEYMOUR, Jane COLLINS and Margot PARKER announced their resignations on Monday citing UKIP’s attitude to women, and the party’s present ‘extreme right’ direction as the reasons for their decision.
Former UK Independence Party leader turned Independent, Diane JAMES, has also joined the Brexit Party.
Jane COLLINS has also switched back to the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) European Parliament group, after a brief stint with the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group, which she had joined in January.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) welcome a new member. Elisabetta GARDINI (ECR, IT), has joined Brothers of Italy (ECR), leaving her Italian party Forza Italia, and in turn also the European People’s Party (EPP).
David BORRELLI (ALDE, IT) is no longer a non-attached Member and has joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group.
Committees / Delegations
Hannes HANSO (S&D, EE) has replaced Ivari PADAR on the following committees and delegations:
- Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), member
- Ukraine Delegation (D-UA), member
- Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), substitute
- Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), substitute
- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia Delegation (DCAS), substitute
HANSO has also joined the following delegations:
- Moldova Delegation (D-MD), substitute
- Belarus Delegation (D-BY), substitute
- Iran Delegation (D-IR), substitute
- Euronest Delegation (DEPA), substitute
This week marked the last plenary session of the current legislative term. The agenda for this final plenary dealt with a range of issues that were emblematic of the major themes that had marked the eighth legislature including migration policy, digitalisation and environmental issues.
On Tuesday, MEPs adopted with 591 votes in favour, 29 against and 33 abstentions, new EU-wide rules and standards to protect whistle-blowers. The new system hopes to protect and encourage reporting of breaches of EU-law in a wide range of areas including public procurement, financial services, money laundering, product and transport safety, nuclear safety, public health, consumer and data protection. Also, on Tuesday, MEPs approved minimum rights for workers in casual or short-term employment, tighter rules on homemade explosives, EU rules requiring life-saving technologies in vehicles to better protect cyclists and pedestrians and the strengthening of EU financial watchdogs.
Wednesday saw updates to EU consumer protection rules to improve ranking transparency in online marketplaces. With 308 votes in favour to 204 against and 70 abstentions, MEPs also backed a proposal which will see online platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter forced to take down flagged terrorist content within one hour. On the same day, Parliament approved a new law to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard, concurrently a new standing corps of 10,000 staff is to be set up by 2027.
On Thursday, MEPs signed off a deal establishing the multi-billion European Defence Fund (EDF). The EDF is set to receive approximately €13 billion in the EU’s next multi-annual financial framework (MFF). The fund aims to strengthen Europe’s defence industry and reduce duplication in defence spending by co-funding defence research with member states.
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The two leading contenders to be the next president of the European Commission, Manfred WEBER (EPP, DK) and Frans TIMMERMANS (S&D, NL), went head-to-head for the first time in a TV debate aired on Wednesday evening. Both agreed on more coordinated European defence and a revision of EU rules on asylum. The two Spitzenkandidaten also agreed the Parliament should keep its Strasbourg seat.
However, fissures started to emerge when traditional left-right divisions over austerity were mentioned, especially in relation to Spain and Portugal with TIMMERMANS asserting that the left-led Iberian governments had remarkable economic success without resorting to austerity and stated ‘we must put an end to austerity now, we've had enough’. WEBER hit back, saying that any successes were down to the ‘necessary reforms’ made by both countries' former conservative leaders. The two also disagreed on the topic of Brexit. TIMMERMANS voiced his hope that ‘the UK might stay in the European Union’ whereas WEBER was more concerned with maintaining EU unity: ‘I have a problem that a country that is leaving the European Union is participating in the EU elections’.
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Budget (DG BUDG)
B WINDLACH is the new Head of Unit 02 (Performance-based budgeting), replacing former Acting Head of Unit Kristof KOVACS.
Informatics (DG DIGIT)
Titus PURDEA has been appointed as Head of Unit D3 (Trans-European Services), replacing Acting Head of Unit Emanuele BALDACCI.
Alvaro DIEZ SOTO has become the new Acting Head of Unit A1 (IT Governance, Service and Relationship Management), replacing former Acting Head of Unit Titus PURDEA.
Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW)
Director-General Timo PESONEN has been appointed as Acting Deputy Director General with responsibility for Directorates B, C, D and F; filling a vacant post.
Also filling a vacant position is Pierre DELSAUX, who becomes Acting Director General with responsibility for Directorates E, G, H and Unit B4. DELSAUX also becomes Acting Director of Directorate I (Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence), filling another vacancy.
Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA)
The Commission decided on Thursday to extend the mandate of INEA’s director Dirk BECKERS for a further five-year term, commencing 1 May 2019.
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Hanna HEINONEN has stepped down from the Management Board. HEINONEN was elected to the board in 2012 and was Interim President until 17 April 2019. Former Maltese President Maries-Louise COLEIRO PRECA has been elected as President.
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The Electoral Office of Northern Ireland published the official Notice of Election for the European Parliament Elections on Tuesday, a further step towards European elections occurring. The notice states that all candidates must be nominated by the 25th April in order to get on the ballot paper for the election.
The UK Parliament is currently in its Easter recess and will return on Tuesday.
Deputy Minister of Economy, Nikolay MANOLEV has been forced to resign after the press disclosed that he had built a luxury villa for himself with EU funds under a project for developing tourism in rural areas. This latest revelation follows the ‘apartment scandal’, or #FlatGate, which saw a slew of government resignations including that of Tsvetan TSVETANOV, deputy leader of the ruling GERB party and Justice Minister Tsetska TSACHEVA.
Minister for Justice, Jan KNĚŽÍNEK, has announced his resignation effective 30 April, amid growing speculation that he would also be part of a pending government reshuffle that saw former Transport Minister Dan ŤOK and former Industry and Trade Minister, Marta NOVÁKOVÁ, also resign last week. KNĚŽÍNEK will be replaced by Marie BENEŠOVÁ, who served in the government of Jiří RUSNOK.
The Estonian parliament voted to approve the proposed government coalition of the Centre Party (ALDE), Pro Patria (EPP) and Conservative People’s Party by 55-44, with two MPs being absent. Jüri RATAS will remain in the position of Prime Minister. Earlier in the week the coalition proposed by Reform (ALDE) party chair Kaja KALLAS, who won the largest number of seats in the election earlier this year, and the Social Democrats (S&D) was rejected 53-45.
The Social Democrats (PES) won a narrow victory in Sunday’s parliamentary election – the first such win for the center-left party in two decades. The Social Democrats secured 17.7 percent of the vote, just ahead of the Finns Party (ECR), which got 17.5 percent.
The Centre Party (ALDE) of outgoing Prime Minister, Juha SIPILA fell to fourth place after a significant fall in support. The tight result could prove problematic for Social Democrat leader Antti RINNE when it comes to forming a workable coalition.
The ruling Social Democratic Party have withdrawn their political support for Justice Minister Tudorel TOADER for failing to implement changes to the national penal code. TOADER was named justice minister in February 2017, but he gradually lost support within the cabinet for refusing to issue proposed changes to the penal code as emergency decrees. Eugen NICOLICEA has been proposed as his replacement however this decision must be approved by President Klaus IOHANNIS.