What is a delegation of the European Parliament?
The delegations of the European Parliament are official groups of Members of the European Parliament who have relations to the Parliaments of states, regions and organisations outside the EU. In regular meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg, the delegation members discuss situations in partner states and the relations between the partners and the EU. The delegations invite experts, who work outside of the European Parliament, (for example in embassies, universities or the European Foreign Service) to stage lectures and exchange ideas with Members of the European Parliament.
The delegations often invite guests who might not be heard otherwise, such as shadow politicians or members of the public. Thanks to their presentations, which often last only around an hour, Members get a better insight into different situations. In addition, the delegations organise inter-parliamentary meetings where they can discuss issues directly with the elected Members of Parliament from countries they are currently dealing with.
These sessions usually happen twice a year and last for a couple of hours or several days. They take place in different locations each time. For one session, the Members of the European Parliament travel to a Parliament in another EU state, for the next one the guests are then welcomed to the European Parliament. When the Members of the European Parliament travel abroad for these sessions, they try to meet people who are not Members of Parliament and to visit projects financed by the EU. These travelling Members are effectively ambassadors of the EU.
Who are the members of these delegations?
The biggest delegations are usually those that participate in ‘parliamentary sessions’ where several parliaments meet. For example, 78 Members of the European Parliament, belong to the forum of the delegation of the European Parliament. This forum takes place once every six months, bringing together parliaments of countries from Africa as well as the Caribbean and the Pacific region (ACP). When these Members of the European Parliament travel to the sessions, they are met by 78 Members of Parliament, one for each of the 78 ACP countries.
However, such a big delegation is unusual. Most delegations of the European Parliament have 15 or fewer members, with the smallest consisting of only eight members. Independently of their size, the delegations are all set up in the same way. There is a Chairman and two Deputy Chairmen who are elected by the delegation. All members of the delegation are nominated by the parliamentary groups. The structure of the delegation reflects the general political balance of power of the Parliament. Each Member of Parliament is also member of a delegation. Some members of the European Parliament belong to more than one delegation.
What does the delegation of the European Parliament mean for the relations with the USA?
The USA has been an important ally of the European Union ever since the establishment of our institutions. Therefore, the close exchange and continuous upkeep of our relations are of the utmost importance. Consequently, the delegations of the European Parliament and American Congress have been meeting regularly over the last 45 years to discuss relevant topics.
To prepare for this exchange of opinions, the delegation meets at least once a month, either in Brussels or Strasbourg. Often, US diplomats, ambassadors, academics or other experts are invited to these meetings to give us the broadest picture possible of developments in the USA.
In addition, we meet twice a year: once in the EU (usually in the capital of the country presiding the Council) and once in the USA. Since 1999, these meetings have gained in importance and have become politically anchored thanks to the establishment of the Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue (TLD).
The TLD is based on the principle that the relations of the EU with the USA go far beyond foreign policy interests or trade topics. However, we work together on various topics, which are important for both continents as two of the strongest entities of this planet. For example, we deal not only with economic and financial politics, energy and climate change, but also with topics like security, data security, terrorism and civil rights.
The TLD includes two meetings a year between the delegations of the European Parliament and the American Congress as well as video conferences during which topics important to both decision-makers are discussed. Consequently, we are able to stay in permanent contact and work well together. Looking at its larger scope, the TLD also includes the work of the other parliamentary committees and their direct contacts to the USA. Laws are mainly developed on committee level. So, it is important that the dialogue starts there.
The USA: our allies and important trade partner
In recent years, relations between the EU and USA have changed. We have trouble understanding many decisions the USA makes. Negotiations are difficult and can take a long time due to the various decisions made by the President.
Nevertheless, our relations are very important, and we must not give up on them. The Americans helped to rebuild Europe after WWII, so it could become what it is today. They supported the development and construction of the European Union and together we have secured peace. Therefore, they have been our most important ally for many years and we are the most important trade partners for one another. And our cooperation goes even further. We work together on topics like cyber security, climate protection, relations with other states, industrial development, research and much more.