EP seats after the 2014 elections
After the 2014 elections the European Parliament must have 751 members, i.e. 15 fewer seats, so as to comply with the Lisbon Treaty. To keep member state's losses to a minimum, 12 EU countries would each lose one seat, while the others would gain none, under a "pragmatic solution" proposed by the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday. MEPs also called for an overhaul of voting methods in the Council of Ministers, as part of a future EU treaty reform.
To bring Parliament's composition into line with the Lisbon Treaty and make room for Croatia's MEPs when it joins the EU, the committee voted for a "pragmatic solution" for the 2014-2019 parliamentary term, based on the principle that "nobody gains seats and nobody loses more than one".
This solution should avoid a "traumatic reallocation of seats, with heavy losses for medium and small member states and huge increases for big ones". It is also "the one most likely to win a majority within Parliament and unanimity in the Council", said lead MEPs Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) and Rafał Trzaskowski (EPP, PL).
The aim is to keep member states' losses of seats to a minimum, whilst respecting as far as possible the "degressive proportionality" principle, whereby MEPs from larger member states represent more citizens than those from smaller ones.
Twelve member states to lose one seat each
The committee's proposed solution would mean that Romania, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Ireland, Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia would each lose one seat at the next European elections (see table below). This plan was approved with 21 votes in favour and one abstention.
In a close vote (10 in favour, 9 against), the committee recommended that Austria, rather than Sweden, should be among the 12 member states to lose one seat each, as the least unfair solution on population grounds.
Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Estonia would each continue to have 6 seats, the minimum possible under the Lisbon Treaty. No member state would increase its number of seats.
Remaining three seats to come from Germany
The remaining 3 seats in the 15-seat reduction would necessarily come from Germany, whose share under the Treaty must be cut from 99 seats to 96 (maximum allowed by the Lisbon Treaty). These 3 extra seats were part of a transitional arrangement that expires at the end of the current legislature.
Looking ahead to 2019
This allocation of seats should be revised sufficiently far in advance of the start of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, MEPs say. The committee undertook to table a new proposal before the end of 2015 to establish a durable and transparent system for allocating seats among EU member states "in an objective manner", before each European election.
This system should take account of any increase in the number of member states and demographic trends, "without excluding the possibility of reserving a number of seats to members elected on transnational lists", MEPs add.
Overhauling the Council of Ministers voting system
The new system for allocating seats in Parliament should be considered together with an overhaul of voting methods in the Council of Ministers, as part of an overall reform of the EU treaties, This reform should be shaped in a European Convention, "on the understanding that the treaties base EU democracy on the representation of both citizens and member states".
Parliament has the right to submit a proposal on its composition to EU heads of state and government in the European Council. The European Council must then decide by a unanimous vote. This decision can take effect only with Parliament's consent.