While Europe – and the whole world – was looking at the conclave that led to the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as new Pope (Francis) of the Roman Catholic Church, Members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution rejecting the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) harshly negotiated during the European Council of February.
Backed by five parliamentary groups (Socialist and Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Greens and radical left), the text was adopted by a huge majority of 506 votes against 161 only. Although this vote is not a big surprise – MEPs had already announced their intention to reject the draft MFF –, it is nevertheless a very important, even historic vote for some reasons.
Often seen as weak and with hardly any political courage, the European Parliament reaffirmed its unwillingness to adopt the current MFF but also its willingness to be better considered by the European Commission and the European Council, in other words to see its prerogatives respected and to be respected as an institution. Indeed, via this vote, the assembly wants to show it is useful, but also in a better position to defend the EU citizens’ interests, at the moment when many people throughout the Union are increasingly sceptical towards the European integration.
Nonetheless – and it is useful to be mentioned – the MEPs’ vote of distrust also has obviously a political meaning. Indeed, and at the prospect of the European elections in June 2014, the EP must, as we said before, prove its utility and by this vote, MEPs play their credibility vis-à-vis the voters. This is a genuine communication trick for an institution that still has an important deficit of image, whereas its powers and prerogatives kept being reinforced for years via the successive Treaty reforms.
Nevertheless, the wave provoked by the EP negative vote had a very weak echo, in France especially. The new Pope Francis is probably responsible, but also the MEPs and the EP due to the weak effectiveness of their own communication, as Fabien Cazenave, French blogger and specialist on EU issues, highlights with relevance. In other words, despites its historic aspect, the vote of the EP passed unnoticed insofar as the piece of information was very little broadcasted, being only noticed by people interested in European affairs.
Although we deplore this lack of communication, the European Parliament’s position has been very important – even if it looks like a political posture at the prospect of the next European elections –, meaning that this assembly is not ready to step back and wants to be better considered by the other EU institutions, especially by the European Council. This is probably the prelude to a ping pong match between the MEPs (representing citizens) and the Heads of State and government who will not have the choice but to review their positions. The MEPs’ signal, even if it was unfortunately not noticed by most Europeans, finally well arrived to Angela Merkel’s, François Hollande’s and David Cameron’s ears, a signal sent by some 15,000 protesters mobilized by the European Trade Unions Confederation (ETUC) against austerity measures at the Parc du Cinquentaire (near the European Council headquarters) in Brussels on Thursday afternoon.