A Specialist Committee of the European Parliament

Specialist Committee
In the European Parliament, draft laws are first reviewed by a specialist committee and then by a plenary session of the Parliament.

The specialist committee will study the draft law in detail, consult with experts, special interest groups such as lobbies, and political leaders in member states. The European Commission is represented by an observer who can contribute to the discussion but without voting powers. Committee members, who will have relevant expertise of their own, will be representatives of all the political groupings in proportion to their numbers in Parliament.

Specialist Committee role-play

Roles

Chairman, a position that is normally filled by agreement between the political groups. The Chairman, who can vote as a member of the committee, also has the casting vote in the event of a tie.

Rapporteur, a position that is filled by negotiation between the political groups. The role of the rapporteur is to take careful note of the views of committee members and as spokesman for the Committee present its recommendations to a plenary session of the Parliament.  He/she has voting rights.

Note:  These two roles are probably best allocated by the teacher as they need to be done well if the role play is to succeed. Alternatively call for volunteers or have them elected.
 
Ordinary members of the committee who will be allocated a role representing one of the five major political groupings.Work in pairs.

Note:  in deciding how to react to the proposals refer for general guidance to the attitudes of the political parties.

Political Attitudes

European People's Party (EPP):  pro business; rights of the individual; light regulation. European People's Party
Socialist Group:  similar to the traditional views of the British Labour Party,
i.e. supports working people, redistribution of wealth, importance of the state.

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE):  local decision making, importance of the community, fairly green. Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
European Conservatives and Reformists Group:  a new party grouping formed from British Conservatives and minority parties from seven other member states. It opposes what it sees as too much power in Brussels.

European Conservatives and Reformists
Greens:   protecting the environment. They advocate making the economy more sustainable, creating jobs in  renewable energy, looking after the environment, and devolving power to local levels. The Greens – European Free Alliance

Clue:   It may not be obvious how a given party grouping might react. One might think that the EPP would oppose a speed limit as being harmful to business, and that the Greens would be all in favour. But what about the others? It doesn’t follow that there needs to be a political line on either proposal. They can be examined on their merits.

Making a recommendation

The role of the committee is to make recommendations to Parliament. It has no decision making powers itself. In making its recommendation the committee may do one of three things:

     
  • Reject the proposal outright
  •  
  • Accept the proposal with some minor modifications
  •  
  • Amend the proposal with some important changes

The decision of the committee is taken by a simple majority vote.

The next stage is for the recommendations to go before a full session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Place cards: European Parliament political groups