Dramatic scenes in European Parliament as vice president collapses during CAP session

Questions about the way votes are conducted


A vice-president of the Eu ropean Parliament collapsed and was taken to hospital after chairing a session on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) in Strasbourg yesterday.

It is believed Greek MEP Georgios Papastamkos suffered a stroke. He was said last night to be gravely ill.

The incident led parliament president Martin Schulz to question how votes were organised.

He said MEPs sometimes did not know what they were voting on, because of the volume of materials they had to deal with.

Before Mr Papastamkos collapsed, he had spent more than 2½ hours going through amendments to the mandate drawn up by the parliament’s agricultural committee for its negotiations with European agriculture ministers.

Some MEPs had been in the chamber since 9am and a motion to suspend the sitting for lunch was proposed in the early afternoon but rejected.

A few minutes later, Mr Papastamkos said he was proposing a three-minute break and as he rose he collapsed.

Several MEPs were critical of the time it took to get a defibrillator to the chamber and an ambulance to the scene. When the parliament resumed, Mr Schulz said Mr Papastamkos had suffered “a serious medical attack” and his wife was on the way.

Mr Schulz said the incident highlighted the need to rethink how votes were organised in the parliament. “The massive votes we have, like we had today, we really can’t organise these in plenary for much longer.”

He said the report on Cap reform was overburdened because of the huge number of amendments tabled.

“We’ve got to find another way to avoid having to sit here for hours voting and, let’s be candid, we sometimes don’t even know what we are voting about in the end. We lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Agriculture committee member Maireád McGuinness said MEPs were under major pressure with the volume of materials they had to deal with before a vote.

“We do need to look at how we do our work,” she said. “The amount and volume of material we are dealing with cannot be dealt with effectively and the agriculture committee worked wonders to distil down over 8,000 amendments into some sort of coherent document.”

MEPs approved the committee’s negotiating mandate, clearing the way for the committee to negotiate with the EU ministers for agriculture on the next Cap reform package for farmers.