MEPs to vote on redistribution of EU Parliament seats

Written by Martin Banks on 5 February 2018 in News
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MEPs will this week decide on the new distribution of parliamentary seats for the 2019 European elections in a vote in Strasbourg.

European Parliament Strasbourg | Photo credit: Press Association


Using a minimal number of the seats vacated by the UK when it quits the EU, the move aims to correct the imbalances in the current allocation of seats to member states.

MEPs will be asked to approve plans for Parliament to shrink from 751 to 705 MEPs when the UK leaves the EU, to make room for EU-wide electoral lists.

Besides reducing Parliament’s size, a proposed re-distribution of seats, which has already been approved by the constitutional affairs committee, would place 46 of the 73 UK seats to be freed up by Brexit in a reserve.


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The 46 seats in the reserve would then be reallocated to new countries joining the EU and/or pan-European electoral lists. The other 27 former UK seats would be distributed among the 14 EU countries that are currently said to be slightly under-represented.

The committee agreed that the number of MEPs elected from an EU-wide electoral constituency in the future should match the number of EU countries. 

Introducing such a transnational constituency would, it is argued, strengthen the “sense of EU citizenship and the European character” of elections to Parliament.

However, the plans could run into trouble this week, with the EPP group saying it opposes Europe-wide transnational lists for the 2019 elections.

A spokesperson said, “By abolishing the direct link between elected MEPs and their constituents, such lists would only add to the perception of the EU as elitist, centralist, undemocratic and distant.

However, the EPP group said it wants European voters to have their say in the choice of the European Commission President.

Group leader Manfred Weber said, “We don’t want this decision to be taken behind closed doors any longer. The top candidate process is a matter of transparency and democracy.”

Also speaking before the vote on Wednesday, European Greens co-Chairs Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Bütikofer said, “Transnational lists could be an important step forward for European democracy. It would underscore the citizen dimension in the European integration process. 

“Europe is more than a concert of national perspectives, interests and priorities. Having MEPs that depend on a European constituency to be elected enhances the role of the European Parliament as the central unitary institution of the EU and its legitimacy in the European process as the representative of the interests and opinions of European citizens, regardless of their nationality.

“The participation in the European elections could also be greatly enhanced by a campaign which puts Europe and its interests front and centre.

“We call upon the council members to earnestly discuss the AFCO proposal and to show leadership by following the Parliament.”

Elsewhere, a cross-party group of MEPs have also given their backing to the idea of EU-wide lists.

A statement signed by Jo Leinen, Guy Verhofstadt, Pascal Durand and Jérôme Lavrilleux said, “We are convinced now there is a unique window of opportunity. Because of the exit of the UK from the European Union no member state will lose a seat in the European Parliament. Both acts necessary to establish a joint constituency, the reform of the European electoral law and the composition of the Parliament, are under consideration at the moment.”

It claims that not only is Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in favour of the move “but also many member states” including France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Belgium as well as all southern European countries, including Portugal.

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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