7th Dec 2019

MEPs agree parliament seat distribution

  • Seats in the parliament - a political question (Photo: Europeam Parliament)

The European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee has backed a new plan on how seats for parliamentarians should be distributed between the 27 EU states after the next European elections in 2009.

On Tuesday (2 October), 17 committee members voted in favour of the report on the future composition of the EU assembly drafted by French conservative Alain Lamassoure and Romanian socialist Adrian Severin. Five MEPs were against, three abstained.

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Mr Severin described the vote as "extremely important...since it has proved that we are able to make very important decisions, sometimes electorally costly, but absolutely necessary in order to make Europe progress".

In the nine-page paper, the two lawmakers have suggested following three main rules.

The total number of deputies in the legislative body should be limited to 750 compared to the current 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.

According to Mr Severin, such caps would result in a "smaller, more efficient and less costly" parliament.

If broken down by countries, the new rules would slightly reduce the political weight of Germany which currently has 99 deputies, while Malta would gain an extra MEP.

"No country, except Germany, will get less seats than those distributed by the treaty of Nice as amended by the accession act of Bulgaria and Romania", Mr Severin stressed, adding that eleven EU states will gain a seat or more.

Politics versus pure mathematics

Within the three main limits, the seats would be shared on the basis of the "degressive proportionality" principle, suggesting that "the bigger the population of a member state, the higher must be the number of citizens each MEP represents" and vice versa.

"Our proposal was trying to be more-or-less neutral" to big as well as small EU member states, Mr Severin said, adding it should put an end to political bargaining over the allocation of seats in the future.

However, he has also admitted they "have not yet found a mathematical formula which would allow everybody to calculate seats without any discussion".

Pandora box: citizens or residents?

Meanwhile, Italian socialist Mauro Zani described Tuesday's vote as "a black day" for the European Parliament.

Speaking to Italian media, Mr Zani said it was unbelievable to base a country's demographic weight on the number of its inhabitants rather than on the number of its residents.

He has argued that it is residents who have the right to elect their MEPs and called on Rome to veto the proposal when it reaches member states.

The issue is of high importance to Poland as well, with Warsaw having hoped for more than the one extra MEP it is to get after the 2009 elections.

But Mr Severin dismissed the criticism by saying the inhabitants-based calculation reflects the socio-economic realities in member states such as the capacity of a certain state to host them or offer them a job.

"This capacity should be reflected in the way in which each state is represented in the European Parliament", he said, suggesting, however, a thorough debate and analysis with the possibility to change this rule.

The entire legislative body will vote on the report on 11 October, with Mr Lamassoure and Mr Severin anticipating that if MEPs follow their representatives in the constitutional affairs committee, parliament should adopt their draft report by a large majority.

If also approved by all 27 EU capitals, the rules would become part of the EU's new Reform Treaty, which is expected to be politically agreed at a summit on 18 October.

The new system of seats redistribution should enter into force with the next parliamentary elections in 2009.

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