MEPs and national MPs discussed the future of European elections, in an interparliamentary committee meeting organised by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
Wednesday’s meeting started with an introductory statement by the Chair of the Committee, Salvatore De Meo (EPP, IT), who highlighted that more cooperation and dialogue between the Union’s legislatures can reinforce parliamentary democracy. Next, the rapporteur Domènec Ruiz Devesa (S&D, ES) provided an overview of the proposed reforms, which aim to further “Europeanise” EU elections and strengthen citizens’ voices. He called on the invited MPs to promote these reforms in their respective countries ahead of the 2024 elections.
The issue of transnational lists became the focal point of the exchange, including in the presentations by Erik Ottoson (Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Constitution of the Swedish Riksdag) and Artemi Rallo (Member of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs in the Spanish Senate and Full Professor of Constitutional Law). The former spoke on different political cultures and the need to ensure maximum legitimacy, urging for consensus or at least broad majorities for the reforms, and doubted that transnational electoral lists can deliver on their promise. The latter advocated for the proposed reforms, arguing that they would deliver a truly European dimension to these elections and more legitimacy for Parliament, while improving EU governance.
Parliamentarians from across Europe took the floor during the course of the meeting. Some reminded that this reform reflects citizens’ expectations as shown in the proposals of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and argued that MEPs are already judged based on merit when taking up responsibilities in the House, rather than the size of their country of origin. Others highlighted that the 28 proposed seats for the pan-European constituency would be in addition to the existing ones, and could potentially help increase turnout. In contrast, many spoke on the risk of European politics being increasingly dominated by the larger member states, and argued that transnational lists would further distance voters from their representatives, who would come from radically different backgrounds, far from the voters’ own.
Other topics that were brought up included the future of the Spitzenkandidaten process, safeguarding the rights of voters with disabilities and gender balance in Parliament, differing practices and rules on voting ages, constitutional obstacles in the member states, and harmonising election dates and electoral processes.
You can watch a recording of the meeting here.
Parliament’s proposals for a new EU electoral law were adopted on 3 May 2022, kickstarting the relevant special legislative procedure. To conclude the process, the proposed reforms (which may be further revised) would need to be approved unanimously in the Council, then obtain Parliament’s consent (by a majority of its component members), and finally receive the approval of each EU country in accordance with their constitutional requirements.