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MEP back-loading vote change reveals closer divide

19 Apr 2013 18:00 (+01:00 GMT)
MEP back-loading vote change reveals closer divide

London, 19 April (Argus) — Twelve members of the European Parliament (MEP) have asked to change their voting record on the European Commission's back-loading proposal, revealing that sentiment in the parliament is even more closely divided than originally viewed.

The commission's proposal to back-load 900mn EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) allowances was dealt a heavy blow on 16 April when MEPs rejected the proposal by a narrow margin of 334-315, with 63 abstentions, sending it back to the parliament's environment committee for further revision.

But updated vote records reveal that the final tally should have been even narrower. The back-loading proposal would have still been rejected by parliament, but by only a majority of eight votes.

Eight MEPs have since requested to change their voting record in support of back-loading — four that had been against it and four that had abstained in the original vote. One MEP that originally voted in favour of back-loading indicated that he meant to vote against the proposal, while three MEPs changed their vote to abstain — two that had originally voted to reject back-loading and one that had voted for back-loading. If lawmakers had all voted as they intended, the vote would have been 329-321 against, with 62 abstentions.

It is important to note that the revised vote count is not binding – it is only declaratory, the parliament's environment committee told Argus today. “MEPs have two weeks to request such corrections. But the count remains unchanged,” the committee said. And, although it does not change the final vote, it signals that the back-loading measure was even closer to passing in parliament.

But the revelation of changed votes is insignificant, according to MEP Eija Riita Korhola, who drafted the amendment to reject back-loading. “It's still the fact that the majority opposed the proposal. [Lead lawmaker on the back-loading proposal MEP Matthias] Groote cannot bring the proposal back to parliament. This is the opinion of the majority. It would be scandalous to try to influence against the majority line,” Korhola said.

Several MEPs that changed their voting position said it was a result of an error and not a change of mind on the proposal. But Korhola doubted that they were simply errors.

“These mistakes never happen in the beginning of the vote. This correction is so one-sided — there is a reason to question whether it was a mistake.”

Groote now has two months to revise the proposal and bring it back to the plenary. At the same time, EU member states will work to find a common position on the measure, as the commission has emphasised that it will not withdraw the measure, and the Irish EU presidency remains committed to finding agreement. Back-loading support in council is now imperative, Groote and other MEPs said.

“A lot depends on the [Council of Ministers] meeting on 22 April,” MEP Peter Liese said. But back-loading could not be implemented in the next few months, he added. “Back-loading can only come in 2014.”

Environment ministers will have an informal meeting in Dublin on 22-23 April. Estonia voiced its support for back-loading yesterday, but there are still several member states that remain undecided, including Germany, with 29 votes in the council.

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