Tough debate on MEP seats kicks off
04.09.07 @ 09:50
STRASBOURG - At their first meeting after the summer recess, European lawmakers have kicked off a highly political debate about how seats for MEPs should be distributed between 27 EU states – something closely intertwined with other institutional reforms set out in the EU's proposed new treaty.
On Monday (3 September), French conservative Alain Lamassoure and Romanian socialist Adrian Severin presented to the European parliament's constitutional affairs committee their report on the future composition of the 785-strong legislative house.
In the nine-page paper, the two parliamentarians suggested following three main rules.
The total number of deputies in the legislative body should be limited to 750 (there are currently 785), the ceiling for a national delegation would be decreased from 99 to 96 seats and the minimum threshold would rise from five to six seats.
Such rules would slightly reduce the weight of Germany with currently 99 deputies, while Malta with five MEPs would gain an extra one.
Within the three main limits, the seats would be shared on the basis of "degressive proportionality" principle, which the two MEPs' report describes as an "ideal solution".
The principle suggests that "the bigger the population of a member state, the higher must be the number of citizens each MEP represents" and vice versa.
Mr Lamassoure and Mr Severin argue in their report that this "undisputed mathematical formula...would ensure a solution not only for the present revision, but future enlargements or modifications due to demographic changes".
At their last meeting in June, EU leaders expressly asked the parliament to table a recommendation on how to share out the total number of seats by October.
But Mr Lamassoure has predicted the talks will generate "a lot of passion and emotion".
Political pressure is coming from some EU capitals which say the issue is of high importance to them. They are calling for an agreement to be struck before giving their consent to the overall reforms foreseen by the new draft EU Reform Treaty.
A definitive version of the treaty is expected to be rubber stamped by the entire EU bloc in the mid-October, while a new system of the seats redistribution should enter into force with the next parliamentary elections in 2009.
In addition, the Lamassoure-Severin report argues against reserving any seats for EU-hopeful countries, saying "it is not guaranteed that any accession will be completed during the very short term".
Both MEPs in charge of dossier have warned against the failure to sell the idea to EU governments, with Mr Lamassoure pointing out there are only two options – either to agree a new formula or to lose 49 seats.
This is because in case of failure, the present rules would be automatically modified in 2009 in such a way that the total number of deputies would fall to 736. Only Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta would maintain their current numbers. The rest of the member states would lose several seats.