COMAGRI lacks full transparency in crucial votes

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Th AGRI Committee voted its Opinion on amendments to the CMO Regulation on Monday 1 April, its Opinion on the Strategic Plan Regulation on 2 April and will vote its Opinion on the Horizontal Regulation on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP today 8 April. I plan to comment on the substantive outcome of these votes in the coming days. In this post I want to comment on a procedural aspect of these votes that I find does not live up to the norms of acceptable practice and which makes it impossible for anyone not in the inner circle to follow the voting on these Opinions. My complaint concerns the unavailability of the compromise amendments and the voting lists without which the public proceedings of the Committee on these days was incomprehensible.

The compromise amendments play a key role in shaping the Committee’s opinion. To see their importance, we can quote from the News Highlights on the Committee’s home page accessed on 7 April (this is a dynamic page so this link will not work after a week or two).

3 April 2019

The series of important votes on the CAP post-2020 reform package begun on 1 April with a vote on the draft report prepared by Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR) on the CMO/Amending Regulation. In addition to the 109 amendments proposed by the rapporteur to the Commission proposal, 687 amendments had been tabled by Members, and a further 92 amendments by the four opinion-giving committees. In order to reach a coherent position and to facilitate the vote, the rapporteur had negotiated 61 compromise amendments. The amendments also concerned parts of the current CMO Regulation that were not amended by the Commission’s proposal.

3 April 2019

On 2 April morning, Members voted on the draft report prepared by Esther Herranz García (EPP, ES) on CAP Strategic Plans. 5253 amendments had been tabled by Members, and a further 670 by the six opinion-giving committees. In order to reach a coherent position and to facilitate the vote, the rapporteur had negotiated over 130 compromise amendments.

5 April 2019

On 8 April, Members will conclude a series of votes on the CAP reform package with the third and final vote on the Horizontal Regulation. Ulrike Müller (ALDE, DE) is the rapporteur on this file. 863 amendments were tabled including amendments by the four opinion-giving committees (REGI, DEVE, CONT and BUDG). Ms Müller has successfully negotiated 63 compromise amendments, which cover almost 600 amendments. 1 alternative compromise amendment has been tabled by ECR group.

So, to understand what the AGRI Committee was voting on during its three meetings on the CAP legal proposals, it is necessary to have sight of these compromise amendments. But you will look in vain for them on the Committee’s website, or anywhere else for that matter. One might expect to find them in the Documents section of the Parliament’s procedure page for each of the Regulations (for example, this page for the CMO Amending Regulation) or on the Committee’s Amendments page under Documents (again, see this link for the amendments to the CMO Amending Regulation). But these pages only contain the amendments proposed by individual Committee members last November as well as those of the opinion-giving Committees.  Indeed, perhaps strangest of all, there is no mention of the compromise amendments nor the relevant documentation on the draft agenda of the Committee meeting at which they were considered (again, see this page for the CMO Amending Regulation). At the time of writing, the compromise amendments are not published (indeed, I am not sure if it is the practice to publish them, perhaps someone could enlighten me here).

Seeing the compromise amendments that the rapporteurs have hammered out with the shadow rapporteurs of the other political groups seems to me to be a vital part of the democratic process. But in order to follow the public proceedings of the Committee when the voting takes place, it is necessary to have access to the voting list.  The voting list is prepared by the Committee Secretariat and sets out the order in which amendments are taken, with each amendment indicated by a number. Anyone listening in to the video of the Committee during the voting would hear the Chair call “Compromise 6, the vote is open…. The vote is closed…. Adopted (or Rejected as the case might be)… we are moving on to Amendment 238” and so it goes on. For anyone without the voting list and a copy of the compromise amendments to which they refer, the resulting proceedings are gibberish.  

The AGRI Committee has a critical role in decision-making on the CAP. In general I applaud the high level of accessibility to the Committee’s documents through its website and to its deliberations through the Parliament TV webstreaming. But access to these crucial documents, the compromise amendments and voting lists,  for the very final stage of its deliberations is only available to an inner circle. Such skewed access to information at the vital stage before voting fuels suspicion that some lobbying groups have more privileged access than others. It also means that it is impossible to form a clear view of the Committee’s voting outcomes even weeks after the vote. All one knows is that the Committee may have rejected compromise amendment X but the general public still has no idea to what compromise amendment X referred. I don’t think this practice befits the Committee, and I hope it will be changed.

This post was written by Alan Matthews

Photo credit: European Parliament TV webstream

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