To boost the European Parliament's popular legitimacy, an extra 25 MEPs should henceforth be elected from EU-wide lists in EP elections, said the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday. In European elections, each voter would have two ballots, one for national lists and the other for EU-wide ones. The proposals are to be put to a plenary vote in June.
"We are seeking to exploit for the first time the new powers we have as a result of the Lisbon Treaty, to improve the popular legitimacy of this House. We have a great chance to establish a coherent modernisation of the electoral procedure" said rapporteur Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK), in a debate on Monday. His draft report was approved in committee on Tuesday with 20 votes in favour and 4 against.
The EU political parties would be in charge of drawing up the transnational lists, with 25 candidates on each list. The candidates should come from at least one-third of the EU Member States, MEPs say. Each voter would have two ballots, one for the national lists and one for the transnational ones.
National authorities would be in charge of counting the EU-wide votes as well as national ones, and they would report the results to a new EU electoral authority that would have to be created to oversee the EU-wide elections. The 25 MEPs elected from the transnational lists would join the 751 MEPs chosen from national ones, so the number of MEPs would rise to a total of 776.
The committee proposes bringing the timing of the European elections forward from June to May. This would give each new Parliament more time to prepare for the election of the President of the European Commission in July. An earlier date would also mean that the elections do not take place during the summer holidays in the northern Member States.
Furthermore, MEPs ask the Commission to propose ways to make it easier for EU citizens living outside their own countries to take part in European elections. Other suggestions include updating the Protocol on MEPs' privileges and immunities, to eliminate outdated material, as the current text dates from 1965.
Mr Duff's original draft report also included a proposed mathematical formula for redistributing the seats in the European Parliament. This formula was dropped – instead, MEPs propose a dialogue with EU Member States at European Council level to assess whether such a formula can be found.
Background and procedures
The Lisbon Treaty requires MEPs to initiate a decision on Parliament's composition. Some of the above proposals would require changes in the EU Treaty, which in turn would require an intergovernmental conference and ratification by all 27 EU Member States. The 1976 Act on elections to the European Parliament would also need to be amended, and other implementing legislation should be put in place.
The plenary vote on this report will take place in June. The aim is to have the new legislation in place by the time of the next European elections in 2014.
Constitutional Affairs Committee
In the chair: Carlo Casini (EPP, IT)