18 new MEPs to arrive next month
14.11.11 @ 17:38
BRUSSELS - The European Parliament is expecting to welcome 18 new members over the course of next month, as a two-and-a-half-year-long bureaucratic procedure draws to a close.
“I’m expecting everybody to arrive between December and January next year,” Jaume Duch, spokesperson of the EU parliament, told EUobserver on Monday (14 November).
The Lisbon Treaty, in which the rules governing the European Union were last modified, limits the number of MEPs to 750 plus one president and tweaks their allocation among member states after the massive enlargements of 2005 and 2007.
Twelve countries are to gain one or more representatives – Spain: 4; Austria, France, and Sweden: 2; Bulgaria, Italy, Malta, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, and the UK: 1 – whereas Germany is set to lose three of them.
The new treaty only came into force, however, half a year after elections in June 2009 had already produced the 736-strong parliament of today, creating something of a legal conundrum: adding the 18 newcomers would amount to a surplus of three deputees – illegal under the new rules.
The solution foreseen by EU leaders was a treaty change that would allow the total number of MEPs to rise temporarily to 754 until the end of the 2009-2014 legislative term. “The objective is that this modification should enter into force, if possible, during the year 2010,” according to the conclusions of the European council of December 2008.
It took longer than expected, though. “It is a procedure that has to go through the parliaments of all the 27 member states. That takes a bit of time,” says Duch.
Belgium was the latest to ratify, as the treaty change passed the latest of its six parliaments late last month.
“It now still has to send the ratification to Rome, as other member states have already done, where the treaty is located. There, Italian diplomats will assess the validity of the documents and annex it to the original. The modified treaty then comes into force on the first of the next month, in this case 1 December,” explained Duch.
Yet, even when 18 newcomers are expected to begin their new life as MEPs as early as next month, not all have been informed. “I haven’t received any official communication. I do not know when I’m supposed to begin. Nothing is certain,” said Joseph Cuschieri, of the Maltese Labour Party - one of the 18 MEPs in limbo.
He has long criticised the fact that he and his 17 counterparts have not been installed earlier as observing members. “I think it is anti-democratic. We have been elected and it is unfair with regard to the people who have voted for us.”
Duch, for his part, says that the European Parliament “did not consider that necessary. Even more so because in certain cases, the observing members would not have been the same people as the full members afterwards.”
For Cuschieri, the approval may have come too late. “I don’t know if I am going anymore. It depends on whether I will be able to deliver politically or not. I will decide in the coming days.”