Parliament will try to liven things up with a ‘question time’ session today: Here’s what you need to know

MEPs will attempt an unscripted, rapid-fire “catch the eye” question-and-answer session with the Commission in Strasbourg today
Source: Alamy

By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

05 Apr 2022

The European Parliament will embark on a new effort to make its plenary debates more lively and engaging this afternoon. In a revamped form of “question time”, MEPs will have the opportunity to put one-minute questions to European Commission leadership, who in turn will have two minutes to reply. President Ursula von der Leyen will be first up, followed by Vice President/High Representative Josep Borrell.

Parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch told journalists about the new format during a press conference on Monday before the opening of the plenary session.

“We have reorganised the plenary and I think this is entirely justified. We are going to try – in this plenary and in subsequent plenaries up to June – a new feature which will be a ‘question time’ involving the Commission and also a ‘question time’ involving the High Representative”, he told journalists.

Duch also told journalists that the new format is a result of focus group discussions that were launched by late European Parliament President David Sassoli. Future ‘question time’ sessions in future plenaries will be with other commissioners.

“We hope that this will be a quite lively, rich and interesting and media friendly debate”, said Duch, via the English interpretation provided during the press conference.

There will be no list of speakers, as is normally the case. Instead, Parliament President Roberta Metsola will pick the contributors in a "catch the eye" process whereby the floor is spontaneously given to members requesting it.

“We expect the Presidency of the Parliament to keep the balance of representation from the different political groups during this question time”, EPP Group spokesperson Pablo Lopez told the Parliament Magazine in a text message, referring to Parliament’s rules on the allocation of speaking time according to the size of the political group.

According to the agenda MEPs will quiz von der Leyen about the first half of her tenure, while Borrell is to field questions on the new Strategic Compass for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), adopted on 21 March.

For the S&D Group, President Iratxe García Pérez told the Parliament Magazine in an email on Monday:

“We are grateful that we will test this new format in this plenary and will then evaluate its effectiveness.”

García Pérez also expressed her hope that the format would “allow a more engaged and direct dialogue on key policy files between MEPs, but also between the [European Parliament], the Commission and the [European Council]”.

The Renew Group also welcomed the new format as a step to strengthen European parliamentary democracy. Their president Stéphane Séjourné told the Parliament Magazine in a WhatApp message from his spokesperson 

"In every functioning parliamentary democracy, you have this very healthy exercise of debate and accountability” adding that “for us, it is also a means to prove that we are regaining normality”.

Question time with President von der Leyen will be streamed live here at 15:00, followed by the one with High Representative Borell an hour later.