Eurosceptics get their way at opening of European Parliament
Tuesday, 02 July 2019
The playing of the European anthem at the opening today of the European Parliament in Strasbourg was disturbed by the Brexit Party whose members turned their back to the ceremony in a silent protest. The opening was brief and formal and ended after 20 minutes.
The first meeting (2 July) of the Parliament after the elections in May was chaired by the outgoing president Antonio Tajani who welcomed the MEPs to the Parliament, “the house of democracy and the only EU institution whose members are directly elected”.
Tajani asked the MEPs to rise to their feet out of respect to the Anthem and reprimanded mildly the Brexit Party for its behaviour. No political speeches were allowed during the opening and he did not react when a MEP protested against the ban of Catalonian MEPs.
The credential of the MEPs had already been examined but Tajani reminded that a number of MEPs had not yet submitted declarations that their membership of the parliament is compatible with other posts they may have. At the opening, 8 tellers were elected for the counting of votes.
Contrary to many national parliaments, where members are required to declare their allegiance to the constitution or the rule of law, the MEPs of the European parliament are not required to swear a similar oath of allegiance to Europe and its values.
The current rules of procedures of the European parliament, though quite extensive, only require the parliament to verify the “credentials” of newly elected members. MEPs are also obliged to submit an income and asset declaration.
But nowhere can be found a requirement of commitment to the values which are underpinning the European project. EU cannot ban the entry of any party which has been legally voted in national elections.
However, the rules do prescribe that members’ conduct shall be characterized by mutual respect, be based on the values and principles laid down in the basic texts on which the EU is founded and respect the dignity of Parliament.
The Brexit Party is not the only party that was voted into the European Parliament on a Eurosceptic, anti-EU, populist or even racist programme. Altogether they ended up with 24 % of the votes, much less than expected. In some member states, however, they did well and became the biggest parties.
Asked previously if the European Parliament should apply an oath of allegiance, political scientist Luuk van Middelaar replied that such a step would be rather undemocratic and, rightly or wrongly, could harm the public perception of the parliament as a body of EU-believers out of touch with voters.