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The Scottish National Party team in the new, 732 member, enlarged European Parliament were at work in Brussels within a week of the Scottish election result being declared. Alyn and I made an immediate start to the complex series of negotiations which precedes the formation of political groupings.
Our political party in Europe, the European Free Alliance, suffered some setbacks and now has its tally of MEPs reduced from the ten elected in 1999, to five. The new EFA group consists of Scots, Welsh, Catalonian and Latvian members. The SNP is the largest party – the only EFA party with 2 seats.
Following discussions with a number of possible allies, it quickly became clear that the re-establishment of an arrangement with the Greens would be the best deal for EFA countries – a position endorsed by the SNP National Council and National Executive Committee.
The Greens/European Free Alliance, 41 strong, will be the 4th largest group in the new Parliament, affording SNP MEPs the opportunity to gain seats on key Committees with Scotlandʼs interests to the fore.
I will be a member of the Fisheries, Internal Market and Consumer Protection, and possibly Economic & Monetary Affairs Committees. Alyn will serve on the Regional Development and Industry, Research and Energy Committees.
At the formal constitutive meeting I was elected President of the EFA Parliamentary Group, and a Vice President of the Greens/EFA Group.
In the Parliament as a whole no political grouping has an overall majority, which means that negotiation between groups is an essential part all decision making, and the process of electing a President of Parliament is the first decision made at the opening plenary session in Strasbourg.
An alliance of political opposites, in the form of a power sharing deal between the 2 largest groupings – the Socialists and the EPP – seems likely to result in Spanish Socialist Josep Borell and German Christian Democrat Hans-Gert Poettering taking consecutive 2½year stints in the top job.
A new set of European Commissioners is in the process of being nominated by the 25 member states. The Commission can only take office if the European Parliament votes in favour.
Following the Parliamentʼs three-week summer recess, each of the 20 specialist committees will comprehensively grill each nominee in a series of public hearings, making recommendations to Parliament as to the suitability of each candidate. A qualified majority must be won before the Commissioners can take office.