So the Netherlands has 31 out of 720 MEPs. How does that work?

Photo: Dutch News

The Netherlands goes to the polls on June 6 to elect 31 new members of the European parliament. But how important is the EU body, and what does it actually do?

The European parliament is a directly elected EU body chosen by EU nationals with legislative, supervisory, and budgetary responsibilities. It will have 720 MEPs after the coming election and divides its time between Strasbourg in France and Brussels.

The parliament has three main roles. Firstly, it deals with EU laws based on European Commission proposals, which are then given final approval by national government ministers within the Council of the EU.

The parliament decides on international agreements, such as enlarging the block, and can ask the commission to propose legislation. It is in charge of scrutinizing all EU bodies, electing the commission president and discussing monetary policy with the central bank. It also establishes and approves the EU’s budget and spending plans.

Members of the European Parliament

The number of MEPs for each country is roughly proportionate to its population, but no country can have fewer than six or more than 96 MEPs. The total number cannot exceed 750 (plus the President).

Parliament has 20 committees and three subcommittees, each handling a particular policy area. The committees examine proposals for legislation, and MEPs and political groups can put forward amendments or propose to reject a bill. These issues are also debated within the political groups.

To pass legislation, MEPs meet for a plenary session to give a final vote on the proposed legislation and the proposed amendments.

Political affiliations

MEPs are grouped by political affiliation into one of seven groups, or can join a non-aligned group. The alliances are general rather than absolute, so a vote for the VVD rather than D66, both of which are in the Renew group, is not the same. However, the seven groups do form a barometer of political opinion and they do work together to back or amend legislation.

These are the seven and their Dutch members:

European Peoples’ Party EPP  (CDA, BBB, NSC)

Renew Europe (VVD, D66, Volt)

Progressive alliance of Socialists and Democrats S&D  (PvdA)

The Greens/European Free Alliance (GroenLinks)

The Left (SP)

Identity and Democracy (was PVV but the party plans to join Marine Le Pen’s new radical right grouping)

European Conservatives and Reformists (SGP)

After the election is over and the votes have been counted, European leaders nominate someone to take the role of commission president. This year again it is likely to be Ursula von der Leyen, because the EPP is set to be the biggest grouping again. However, the appointment must be approved by the European parliament.

Once that job has been filled, work starts on appointing the other 26 commissioners and portfolios. Each member state delivers one commissioner. The Netherlands current commissioner is Wopke Hoekstra who was drafted in to replace Frans Timmermans, architect of the Green Deal, when he moved back to domestic politics.

What are the big issues?

Louise van Schaik, head of EU and global affairs at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, told Dutch News earlier that the key themes for voters in the Netherlands will be migration, the green transition and the cost of living.

“There are concerns migration has not been handled well and the debate is about refugees, migrants from other EU countries, people from Ukraine and international students,” she said.

On the shift to greener energy, there are questions about whether the EU pushed it “too hard too rapidly”, especially for farmers and households.

New priorities will be the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and Ukraine, the institutional reforms these will require, and the ‘war economy,’ Van Schaik said. “If Trump is elected US president in November, we will have to scale up the European defense and borrow for that.”

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