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Politics

Taking stock of parliamentarians' activity

Who is the oldest member of the European Parliament? Who spoke the most, and who has the longest commute to work? DW takes a slightly different look at the legislative period of 2009 to 2014.

On May 26, one day after the European elections, the clocks at the European Parliament will be reset to mark the beginning of the institution's eighth legislative period. The cards will be shuffled, some parliamentarians must leave, and others will take their places. Looking back at the seventh term: which of the parliamentarians were the most industrious, and who let others do the bulk of the work?

Membership in the European Parliament was long considered to bring little influence or prestige, and the work load was seen as limited. That changed with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, which established expanded powers for the legislative body. However, the image of European Parliamentarians as lazy has proven persistent - rightly so? Glancing at the numbers should offer some clarity.

The EU parliamentarians discussed, negotiated and voted over the course of 242 sessions totaling 1,985 hours and 30 minutes since the body began its work after the last European elections in 2009. That corresponds to 248 days of work, each totaling eight hours. What perhaps sounds like quite a bit at first is not so impressive after considering that those days were spread over a five-year period. There also wasn't a single parliamentarian who was present at every vote during the legislative period.

It must be noted that parliamentarians' agendas consist of much more than attending formal sessions. However, individual parliamentarians' workloads differ heavily during the weeks when parliament is in session in Strasbourg, as the statistics at VoteWatch Europe show.

Present or absent

British politician Godfrey Bloom

Bloom was something of a rarity in Strasbourg

There is, for example, significant variation when it comes to attendance at plenary sessions. The frontrunner is Romania's Christian Dan Preda, who took part at 99.3 percent of parliament's meetings, putting him just slightly ahead of fellow Romanian Iosif Matula.

Among German parliamentarians, the Christian Social Union's (CSU) Albert Dess was present 98.8 percent of the time, while the Free Democrats' (FDP) Silvana Koch-Mehrin came in last with a 60 percent attendance record. But Koch-Mehrin can still be found much more often in Strasbourg than Godfrey Bloom. The independent British MEP took part in fewer sessions of the last legislative period than anyone else, checking in at just around a quarter of the meetings.

In comparing countries as a whole, Austria's parliamentarians came out on top when in terms of attendance, suggesting they were either more motivated or simply better organized than their colleagues from the remaining 27 member states. Germany came in at eighth place, while Malta rounded out the pack at 27th. Of course, the Maltese representatives also have a bit of a longer trip to Strasbourg than do their colleagues from Germany or Austria.

Leaving paradise behind

The parliamentarian with the longest commute is certainly Maurice Ponga, who represents the French Pacific Islands (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna). Since the islands are part of the French state, they are treated just like other regions in France - including representation in the Franch as well as in the European parliaments. For European elections, all of France's island territories represent a joint electoral district in which three parliamentarians can be elected - one each for the regions in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

A beach in New Caledonia

More than 16,000 kilometers separate New Caledonia's sunny shores from Strasbourg

Maurice Ponga has to travel more than 16,000 kilometers (9,940 miles) by plane to make it from New Caledonia to Strasbourg. He was able to make it for about 80 percent of votes.

Inquiring minds

Being present, however, doesn't necessarily mean being active. The parliamentarians can participate in day-to-day activities in various ways, including speaking or posing questions.

Such questions represent an instrument of direct control over other EU bodies and institutions, and they are used often. Portugal's Diogo Feio from the European People's Party (EPP) made extensive use of such inquiries, posing 1,491 of them during his most recent term. In comparison, the most-inquisitive German parliamentarian - Ingeborg Grässle of the CDU - seems almost shy with her 146 questions on record.

Germany's representatives also vary widely in how often they spoke publicly. While the CDU's Rainer Wieland held 484 speeches, Kerstin Westphal and Norbert Glante of the SPD tended to keep quiet, holding eight and four speeches respectively.

86-year-old MEP Luigi Ciriaco de Mita can probably look on at his colleagues' divergent behavior with stoic equanimity - the Italian parliamentarian was the oldest member during the last legislative period. Sixty years separate him from Sweden's Amelia Andersdotter, who - at 26 - was the youngest representative.

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