Delegations, the far-reaching arms of the European Parliament
The following text welcomes the visitor who wishes to learn more about the work of the delegations: „Every Member of the European Parliament works to make the European Parliament a global institution.
Because we are all elected representatives, we also work to make sure that the Parliament's international relations reflect the interests and ideals of EU citizens. Our voice in the world is the voice of our citizens.”
How does this work in practice?
Delegations are groups of Members of European Parliament, who as an official team are responsible for cooperation with certain countries outside the European Union or even organizations. They hold meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg and discuss issues related to the countries they are delegated to. It is also common to invite experts to the Parliament or other guests to have vaster variety of voices heard in the EP: university professors, diplomats, members of the political opposition and members of the civil society.
Not only the subject or style of the meetings vary extremely, but the duration and location as well. They can be anywhere from a few hours long to few days long, sometimes it is held outside the EU and sometimes among the walls of the European Paliament’s venues.
They even organize so called inter-parlamentary meetings, when the delegates (repesenting of course the European Parliament) meet the members of the parliament in the country their work focuses on, to where they are delegated.
The number of the delegations vary from term to term, so with the next term starting very soon, in 2019 the number or focus of the delegations could change drasticly. There are so called standing delegations, which in other words means permanent delegations, currently fourty-four. It is also possible to establish ad-hoc delegations anytime the Parliament sees fit, to focus on one particular area.
Every Member of European Paliament (MEP) is a member of at least one delegation, some are the members of multiple ones. Most of the delegations have around 15 members, while some has less and the largest one counts as many as 78 members. This giant delegation is the one to the forum that brings together all the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries’ parliaments. There are 78 delegates in this delegation as the ACP forum brings together 78 countries and each country has it’s own delegate during this large meeting.
The general aim of the delegations is "maintaining and enhancing contacts with parliaments of States that are traditionally partners of the European Union and [...] promoting [...] the values on which the European Union is founded." There are also other strict rules to which the delegations must obey to, such as working with the Parliament’s committees, respecting the positions and standards of the Parliament during their work and having their trips strictly controlled regarding the costs of travelling outside the EU.
Different types and roles
Some of the delegatios participate in so called parliamentary assemblies, which doesn’t mean actual national parliaments but assemblies of elected representatives to bodies with different functions, such as the Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Another type is the inter-parliamentary committees, meaning bilateral meetings between the European Parliament and one other delegation from a specific country, based on a formal agreement, following rules of proceedure.
The rest and largest group (25 of the 44) of delegations is responsible for the relationship with an other country or a group of countries, meetings are less formal and frequency can vary too.
Understanding the entire mechanism is not easy at all, but focusing on smaller parts of the EU institutions may help us to see a bigger picture one day.