MEPs want better answers, Commission wants better questions
Members of the European Parliament on Monday urged the European Commission to provide better answers to their questions in the latest installment of an ongoing spat over democratic scrutiny.
The issue of MEPs’ oral questions was added to the agenda of the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg after Daniel Caspary, a German member of the European People’s Party, obtained the signatures of 246 MEPs who supported his written question asking the Commission to explain why answers to MEPs are often “uninformative.”
On Monday, Caspary accused the Commission of a lack of enthusiasm and diligence in responding to questions. “Perhaps, sometimes, they want to keep things secret from us,” Caspary told MEPs.
Both sides have their grievances. Last month, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wrote to Antonio Tajani, the Parliament’s president, telling him the Commission was sick of receiving irrelevant questions from MEPs as part of the 10,000 questions asked per year (that’s 40 per working day).
Written questions are an “important democratic scrutiny tool” and the Commission is making “every effort to reply in good time,” with information that is “politically pertinent,” Juncker said.
But, he added, “the success of these efforts depends also on the quality of the questions.”
Tibor Navracsics, the commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, responded to Caspary by saying the Commission would be ready to “join forces with you in ensuring that the limitations in the number of questions is matched with high quality of answers.”
He also told MEPs that a meeting between the two sides was planned for next week.
The issue of questions has been a sore point between the Commission and the Parliament for years. In a report on the revision of Parliament’s rules of procedure by British MEP Richard Corbett, adopted last year, MEPs are limited to a maximum of 20 questions in any three-month period, and with a maximum length of 200 words each.
The number of questions has fallen from 13,400 in 2013 to around 10,000 a year today.
Parliamentary questions can be submitted orally during plenary sessions, or in writing.
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