It was a week of high drama in Brussels with late night, early morning summits and breakfasts and more summits until the big names were all drawn out of the hat and agreement had been reached on the presidencies of the big EU institutions. A more relevant drama for financial services legislation was playing out silently in behind the scenes “games of throne” in the European Parliament. Freshly baked and confirmed MEPs were jockeying and deal making in their own political groups to guarantee a position in the parliamentary committees they would like to work in for the years to come. Crucial weeks and days indeed.
The main parliamentary committee for financial services is the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON). Most relevant legislation for the banking sector is (co-) decided there. The composition of ECON is thereby not completely irrelevant as it will determine the pool from which rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs, draftsmen of amendments and voters will come from.
A first observation is that there is very high turnover. The percentage of new members is well above 50. Many old hands and heavyweights have chosen not to seek a new mandate. A new generation is on the go.
Among the remaining safe pairs of hands, we find a.o. from the EPP the German Markus Ferber and the Austrian Othmar Karas. On the socialist side the Italian former chair Roberto Gualtieri and the Spanish Jonas Fernandez while the liberal group sports only new faces among their full members. Among the Greens Sven Giegold and Philippe Lamberts seem to be … evergreens.
Looking exclusively at full members gives us nevertheless only half the picture. Substitutes have basically the same rights as members including attending meetings, speaking and tabling amendments. The main difference is that they can only vote if they replace a missing member – which happens regularly. ECON’s substitute members are known since Thursday afternoon. We find interesting names there ranging from the liberal (and formerly Green) Frenchman Pascal Canfin, the liberal Dutch Caroline Nagtegaal to the EPP Dutch Esther de Lange. All are experienced ECON members. To be noted and followed with interest are also the Luxembourg new substitutes Christophe Hansen, Monica Semedo and Nicolas Schmit.
Looking forward the newly formed committee will have two upcoming main tasks: elect its chair and vice-chairs on the one hand and prepare and hold the hearings of the relevant candidate Commissioners on the other. On the former the choice is important as the chair determines the agenda and importantly chairs the inter-institutional trilogue agreements, the usual last stage of negotiation in EU legislation. On the hearings in September / October, ECON traditionally grills the financial services, economic, tax and competition candidate Commissioners.
With the composition of ECON known, the suspense is not over yet …
By Antoine Kremer, ABBL & ALFI Head of European Affairs