MEPs question major EP electoral reform plans

Source: European Parliament (EP) i, published on Tuesday, July 13 2010, 10:46.

Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs are not convinced of the need for a major overhaul of the European Parliament election rules at present. Proposals for a transnational electoral list, mandatory regional constituencies in the bigger EU Member States and an EU-wide minimum voting age of 16 met a lukewarm reception in committee on Monday.

Parliament has the sole right to initiate changes in its electoral procedure and composition. A report drafted by Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK), suggests both, with the aim of "enhancing the legitimacy and efficacy of Parliament", for example by "reducing discrepancies among the electoral procedures of the states".

Transnational list proposal

The draft text proposes electing 25 MEPs from an EU-wide list, in addition to the MEPs elected from the Member States. Thus each voter would have two ballots to cast. An EU electoral authority would be established to oversee the transnational elections. The European elections would take place in May, and Saturday and Sunday would be the only polling days.

Under the proposal, all Member States with over 20 million inhabitants would be broken into regional constituencies. The voting age throughout the EU would be 16 (currently the case only in Austria) and the age of eligibility to stand as a candidate would be 18 (currently the case in 12 Member States). The allocation of the seats in Parliament should also be revised, says the draft text.

Misgivings on reform timetable

Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs briefly discussed the issue on Monday, 12 July. The rapporteur stressed the need for reform, but also acknowledged that there were many critical comments on his work. "There are those who say I am going too far, too fast, and those who say it is not sufficiently far, nor sufficiently fast", Mr Duff remarked.

Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE, FI), admitted to being among those for whom the change is too fast, observing that "it is not the time to change the treaties and there are divided opinions in all groups". György Schöpflin (EPP, HU) echoed this view, adding that "there are serious contextual problems here: is this actually the right time? In my group there is no great enthusiasm."

Ramón Jáuregui Atondo (S&D, ES), noted that an inter-parliamentary meeting is soon to be held on this issue and said on behalf of his group "I am pleased Mr Duff has modified his text, and we are waiting for the debate in September to put our views forward. We are very interested to hear what our national parliament colleagues will say". 

Next steps

The Constitutional Affairs Committee will discuss EU electoral reform with members of national parliaments 30 September. The committee will continue working on the draft report thereafter. The rapporteur would like Parliament to decide on the issue by the end of 2010, and to have the new election Act in place in time for the 2014 European Parliament elections.

In the chair: Carlo Casini (EPP, IT)

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