15th Oct 2019

MEPs divided in seats debate

  • The EU assembly has increasingly strong powers and member states vie for representation (Photo: European Parliament)

MEPs are divided over a draft report on how their seats should be allocated after the 2009 parliamentary elections with Italian and Irish MEPs feeling hard done by.

Under proposals discussed in the constitutional affairs committee on Tuesday (11 September), Spain would get four extra seats, while France, Sweden and Austria would get two extra and Britain, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Latvia and Sweden would get one more MEP.

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Opening the debate, Romanian socialist MEP Adrian Severin, one of the authors of the report, said "there are neither winners nor losers here."

But not everyone was in agreement.

"Some win less than others", Italian socialist Mauro Zani said, criticising the fact that his country would not be on "equal footing" with other big European countries – France and the UK.

Responding, French centre-right deputy Alain Lamassoure and co-author of the report, said "It is not us who have decided to break the group of big countries" adding that the Italian population had not significantly increased, unlike France or the UK.

Ireland also expressed its discontent with the document, noting a "huge gap" between big and small countries.

"Our population is increasing all the time", while at the same time Ireland keeps losing power in all three institutions, Kathy Sinnott, an Irish deputy of the Independence/Democracy group said.

On the other hand, Spain which lobbied intensely for several months to get its representation in the parliament increased is pleased with the reallocation. It had lost out in 2001 negotiations on seats in return for power elsewhere.

"Spain lost an enormous number of seats" at that time, so it is normal now that it gets more, Spanish socialist MEP Carlos Carnero Gonzalez said.

"We have a good proposal here and I am saying this as a Spaniard and as a European. I fully support the proposal", he said.

EU leaders recently agreed to raise the parliament's ceiling to 750 – providing an extra 16 seats to be reallocated.

The current number of seats in the assembly is 785 – a temporary raised ceiling from the previous 736 to accommodate the membership of Bulgaria and Romania.

The extra 16 seats comes from the ceiling changing from 736 to 750 plus fixing new limits for the upper and lower threshold of seats – freeing up another two seats.

The authors of the report themselves admitted that their proposal was imperfect and only a temporary solution, which would later on have to be reviewed, particularly if new enlargements take place.

MEPs are to submit their amendments to the document by the 18 September, debate on it within the constitutional affairs committee on 2 October and then vote on it on 10 October.

After this, member states can "in principle" still modify the proposal, but "we judge that if the resolution is adopted by a considerable majority", they should not do so, Mr Severin said at a press conference after the debate.

Once approved the new composition of the European Parliament will be engraved in the 27-nation bloc's new treaty, which the EU hopes to get finalised by the end of the year at the latest.

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