Proposal for a Council Regulation on the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, repealing Council Decision (76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom) and the European Electoral Act

In “Constitutional Affairs - AFCO”

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The European Parliament has long pleaded to enhance the European dimension of European elections, frequently criticised for focusing too much on national politics and internal candidates. Aiming to foster a genuine pan-European political debate ahead of European elections, stressing the link between those elections and the European project, and increasing citizens’ interest in European affairs, the European Parliament has put forward a legislative initiative that seeks to repeal the current European Electoral Act and adopt a new Regulation governing European elections.

Already modified several times after its initial adoption in 1976 (mainly in 2002 and 2018, although the later amendment is not yet in force), the current European Electoral Act does not provide a uniform electoral system applicable to all the EU Member States in European elections. On the contrary, it contains a set of common principles that should be respected by the different national laws applicable to European elections. The proposal currently being debated in the European Parliament would further harmonise the electoral system and procedure applicable to European elections.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament was responsible for the file and decided to appoint Domènec Ruiz Devesa (S&D, Spain) as rapporteur. The draft report was published on 3 June 2021. The deadline for amendments was set for 5 November 2021. Seven hundred thirty-one amendments were tabled to the draft report. The AFCO Committee adopted its final report on 28 March 2022. The report was tabled for plenary and adopted by Parliament on 3 May 2022. Among the main novelties the proposal would bring, the following may be highlighted:

1. A minimum common age of 18 years to stand as a candidate in European elections and a minimum common voting age of 16 years old, except in Member States where the constitutional order establishes a minimum voting age of 17 or 18 years.
2. An obligation for Member States to ensure the right to vote in European elections to EU citizens living in a third country, those without a permanent residence, those living in closed residential settings, those experiencing homelessness or those serving a prison sentence
3. An obligation for Member States to ensure accessibility to relevant materials, voting facilities and polling stations, including for persons with disabilities.
4. An obligation for Member States to provide for postal voting, including for EU citizens living abroad, and the possibility to allow advance physical voting, proxy voting, electronic and internet systems for voting.
5. A fixed day for holding European elections in the whole EU (9 May, every five years).
6. A common electoral campaign period starting eight weeks before the day of the elections and a common electoral reserve period commencing 48 hours before the election day;
7. The obligation for all political parties and other entities participating in European elections to observe “democratic procedures and transparency” when electing their candidates and to ensure gender equality in their candidatures, either by using a zipper system or quotas.
8. The creation of a Union-wide constituency, comprising the territory of all Member States, in which 28 Members of the European Parliament would be elected through transnational electoral lists in the upcoming European elections (2024). In the Union-wide constituency, a uniform electoral system and procedure would apply:
• Members would be elected through a closed-lists system;
• European political parties, European associations of voters (0,02% of the voting age population in at least ¼ of Member States), European electoral coalitions (formed by at least 2 European political parties or associations of voters) and European coalitions of national parties or associations of voters from at least ¼ of the Member States would be entitled to submit candidacies for the Union-wide constituency;
• the candidature lists would be divided into sections of three slots, and, in every section, there should be a candidate from Member States with different population sizes, as indicated in Annex 1 of the proposal. This requirement aims to ensure that candidates from small and medium Member States also appear in electable places of every candidature list, thus ensuring a wide geographical representation;
• the D’Hondt formula would be used for the allocation of seats in the pan-European constituency after the elections.
9. The creation of a European Electoral authority, comprised of 27 members appointed by each Member State among professors of law or political science, that would be in charge of conducting the elections in the pan-European constituency but also of coordinating the exchange of information among the national electoral authorities and monitoring the implementation of the Regulation.

According to Article 223 TFEU, Parliament’s legislative initiative still needs to be approved unanimously by the Council, obtain Parliament’s consent (by a majority of its component members) and receive the approval of all the Member States by their respective constitutional requirements to enter into force. 

The Council Legal Service gave an opinion on the proposal's compatibility with the EU Treaties on 14 October 2022. At the General Affairs Council (GAC) on 18 October 2022, some Member States expressed reservations about a Union-wide constituency and the further harmonisation of the European electoral system. Since then, a survey was conducted among delegations, and a further discussion took place at the GAC on 27 June 2023. Among the most significant remaining difficulties are the lead candidate process, the EU-wide constituency, the voting age of 16 years, the obligation to provide postal voting.

The Spanish Presidency undertook to hold a technical debate in light of the results of the questionnaire.

References: 

For further reading:

Related legislative train file:

REFORM OF THE ELECTORAL LAW OF THE EU, 2018.

Author: Kamil Baraník, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/06/2024.