The new European Parliament has managed to score an own goal in the beginning of the first half of the game. It has missed an opportunity to influence the European Commission’s first work programme, detailing the Commission’s priorities for 2015. The political groups’ failed to adopt a joint resolution about the programme, which has effectively handed a blank cheque to Jean-Claude Juncker to go ahead with a number of controversial proposals to withdraw legislation on clean air and waste.
The EPP, ECR and, perhaps more surprisingly, S&D parliamentary groups withdrew from negotiations, refusing to criticise these particular proposals, which were the main bone of contention for ALDE and Green/EFA groups. The battle lines were drawn on whether these measures would adversely affect economic growth, with some criticising the large groups for putting “industry lobby interests before the public interest”.
But irrespective of whether one is for or against Mr Juncker’s air and waste position, it is without doubt that the European Parliament lost a golden opportunity to assert itself with the new Commission by not using its newly enhanced role in the legislative process. Although Parliamentary approval is not needed for the Work Programme to go ahead, a critical resolution would almost certainly have forced the Commissioners to rethink their priorities to avoid facing strong opposition from the Parliament later on.
When a new relationship of any kind is formed, the very early days usually determine its future balance of power. We can only hope that the members of the European Parliament will act soon to shift the balance in their favour and make use of their power to better represent the interest of the European demos, who entrusted them with looking after their interests. It is not yet too late in the game to turn the score around.