The EU’s top positions have been the subject of fierce public debate - the Parliamentary committees have been almost silent.

UM – 07/2019

‘Kindergarten’ is the best-known example of Germanism. In the European Union, another loanword has a good chance of becoming very popular: ‘Spitzenkandidat’ (German for ‘lead candidate’). Even though the top positions in the EU have now been filled following passionate discussions, the debate about the selection process will continue. The new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, herself not a spitzenkandidat, announced in her candidature speech on 16 July that she wanted to reform the election process; please find more information in our news ‘Es lebe Europa – Vive l’Eu­rope – Long live Europe’: EU top jobs now filled.’

On 2 July, the European Parliament (EP) met in Strasbourg for the first time in this 9th legislative period and, apart from some provocations by individual political groups such as the Brexit Party, adopted its working structure relatively calmly. A week later, on 10 July, the Parliamentary committees were constituted. The chairs and their deputies have now been appointed. There was, however, one exception. The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) could not agree on Beata Szydło, who was put forward by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). After an initial defeat, she did not receive the required majority in a second secret ballot on 15 July.

Germany is well represented

The EP has 22 committees. Social insurance issues are mainly dealt with in the EMPL and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). Other Parliamentary committees of interest to social security include: Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), Legal Affairs (JURI) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). 46 of 96 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from Germany have taken up a seat on these seven committees, which means that Germany is very well represented.

Frenchman Pascal Canfin from the liberal Renew Europe Group (RE) has been elected Chairman of ENVI, which is the largest committee with 76 members. Committee chairs have also been elected: Lucy Nethsingha (RE, UK) for JURI; Petra De Sutter (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance - Greens/EFA, Belgium) for IMCO; Professor Juan Fernando López Aguilar (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists in the European Parliament - S&D, Spain) for LIBE; Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, Italy) for ECON. AGRI Chair is a familiar face, Norbert Lins (Group of the European People’s Party - EPP, Germany). Lins was a member of the ENVI Committee in the last legislative period, where he also focussed on the close link between antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans and the need to seek European solutions in both human and veterinary medicine.

Prominent politicians have taken their place

The committees which are more extensively monitored by the German Social Insurance include politicians who previously held important positions in Germany. Former Justice Minister Katarina Barley (S&D) has become a member of the LIBE. She will be in the company of an MEP of a somewhat different kind, the factionless satirist Martin Sonneborn. Marianne Mortler (EPP), former Federal Government Commissioner for Drugs, represents German interests in the Agriculture Committee (AGRI). Özlem Alev Demirel, the lead candidate of the German Left, is a trade unionist and says that she wants to fight for social improvements and to advocate minimum social standards. She can do this with immediate effect as a new MEP in the EMPL.

A list of all MEPs in the EP committees can be found here.