Dubious Tactics Used to Push Through ESTRELA

December 3, 2013

The controversial Estrela Report continues to advance, though the reasons for this have less to do with broad support than with machinations and manipulations that are going on behind the scenes. According to various sources in the European Parliament, there are indications that the entire process is being manipulated, with supporters of the report breaching the rules of procedure of the European Parliament itself  — and doing everything they can to push aside objections and not allow open debate about the text.

Although the Estrela Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights was referred back to the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) at the last plenary session in October, precisely in order to reassess its content the FEMM Committee has pushed basically the same Report through once again. The tactics are dubious. A ban was placed on the tabling of new amendments in committee and on the holding of discussions on the existing alternative resolution from the EFD. The committee has only voted on a few, minor modifications (split votes) to give the appearance of changes; but substantively it is the same as before and has been put back on the agenda for plenary vote on December 10. Everything is speeded up, there is no time for a due debate on the many controversial points of this report.

In reaction to this and in view of the plenary vote next week, the EFD retabled its alternative resolution and  the EPP will most probably decide tonight to table a new alternative resolution.

The imposition of a ban on new amendments has provoked fierce debate and a lot of displeasure among MEPs, many of whom are concerned with the legality of this proceeding. In fact, the European Parliament’s Legal Service found the ban to be in breach of the rules of prcoedure, an assessment which they delivered orally to the FEMM Committee on November 26.

Parliament’s Legal Service cannot issue a formal, written decision on the breach of the rules or procedure. The competent body to do this is the committee on constitutional affairs (AFCO), which has to receive an official request from President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. Four political groups — the EPP and the ECR, the EFD and the Non-Inscrit (NI) — have made  such an official request to Mr. Schulz, which remained without answer until now.

Additionally, while amendments to the Report are finally allowed, after the oral opinion from the Legal Service, the deadline for submitting these new amendments is tomorrow, December 4, at noon. These amendments have to be tabled on the basis of the text as amended in the FEMM Committee meeting on November 26 – but it has, until today, December 3, not yet been made available to the public. Another point of dubious proceeding that need to be investigated by MEPs. Without the official text, no new amendements can be tabled – and one has to wonder if somehow this is intentional.

It is quite evident that supporters of the Estrela want to avoid any discussion about and reconsideration of the report as requested by the plenary a majority of parliament. Yet, there is growing opposition to the report, both in and out of Parliament, as more and more people learn about its actual content.

It is time for Estrela herself to be brave enough to accept a fair debate and the outcomes of a truly democratic process. But under the current conditions, it is unacceptable that this report remains on the agenda for a plenary vote next week.

Recommendations for actions by NGOs and citizens

  1. Raise public awareness wherever you can about the report and about the manipulation of the entire process behind it – and generally inform the public in whatever way you can about the scandalous recommendations of the report.
  2. Write to your MEP with the following requests:
  • MEPs should ask President Schulz to formally request the AFCO Committee to investigate a breach of the rules prcoedure by the FEMM Committee.
  • The vote in plenary needs to be postponed until AFCO has given their opinion. If this is not done, MEPs need to raise this point in plenary.
  • In case the report will be voted on in plenary on December 10, MEPs should vote in the following order:

First, they should vote for the alternative resolution of the EFD Group.

Secondly, if  this resolution is rejected, vote for the (planned) alternative resolution of the EPP Group.

Thirdly, if this second alternative resolution is rejected, then vote against the Estrela report, no matter how it is amended.

For any arguments with regards to the content of the report as discussed in committee, please have a look at FAFCE’s updated analysis.