Friday

6th May 2016

Focus

Belgium, Spain, France field most senior MEPs in EU vote

Is the European Parliament an important institution to which political heavyweights should be sent? Or is it a place for potential talent to learn the metier, away from their member state's capital?

Opinions on the matter differ greatly among 11 EU member states, according to two researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

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This month they published a preliminary report on their findings.

The researchers looked at the resumes of 318 candidates for the next European Parliament.

Political parties in Belgium, Spain and France have put more experienced politicians on the ballot, while MEP candidates from the Czech Republic, Denmark and the Netherlands are the least experienced.

Each MEP candidate was awarded points for political experience and how recent that experience was.

If someone had been government leader or head of state just before being a candidate for the European Parliament, he or she received 700 points. Someone who had that position more than two years ago received 500 points and if it was more than eight years ago, 200 points.

Current membership of a national or federal parliament got 190 points, while 110 were given if more than two years had passed. Current European Commissioners received 300 points, current MEPs 100 points.

The two MEP candidates with the highest score (1,170) were both Belgians: former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt (Alde) and former minister in several cabinets Steven Vanackere (EPP). The average points of all 11 member states under research was 234.

The researchers also looked at 565 people who were members of the European Parliament in the periods 2004-2009 and 2009-2014.

The results for Belgium have been consistently high: an average of 300 points or higher in all three periods. When defining a political heavyweight of 400 points or higher, 23.7 percent of the researched Belgian candidates are heavyweights. Spain and France are also well-represented.

At the bottom of the ranking is the Netherlands, with an average this year of 112. There are no Dutch candidates with a score higher than 400 – nor were there any in 2004 and 2009.

Denmark (average score of 161), Czech Republic (180) and the United Kingdom (193) have also put relative political rookies on the ballots.

According to the lead researchers, Wim Voermans and Jerfi Uzman, the scores indicate how important the European Parliament is in the eyes of national political parties. They plan to widen their research with data from other member states.

The 11 states included in the study were: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

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