EU Democracy gap because 18 MEPs are still missing

, by Jörg Leichtfried

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EU Democracy gap because 18 MEPs are still missing

The European Parliament is awaiting 18 new MEPs. But the procedures take now more time than expected. An update to the current situation from the Austrian Head of Delegation, Jörg Leichtfried MEP.

Since the Lisbon Treaty did not enter into force before the 2009 elections, the European Council never took a formal decision on Parliament’s composition. Nevertheless, the conclusions of the European Councils of December 2008 and June 2009 set out the conditions under which the 18 additional members could join Parliament, provided the Lisbon Treaty entered into force during the 2009–2014 legislatures.

These conclusions emphasized a swift timetable and defined the seat allocation, as well as how the new MEPs could be designated. For the Austrian social democrats the profound social expert Josef Weidenholzer would become the fifths MEP in the delegation.

Twelve countries are waiting

In December 2008, the European Council decided that once the new Treaty enters into force, transitional measures would be adopted as soon as possible to increase, until the end of the 2009–2014 legislature, the number of MEPs of the 12 member states for which the number of MEPs was set to increase. Therefore, the total number of MEPs would rise from 736 to 754 until the end of this legislature. They also added that this modification should enter into force, if possible, during 2010.

In June 2009 the European Council reaffirmed this decision and added more detailed measures concerning the 18 future MEPs. The decision also included an annex which reconfirmed the distribution of the new seats already negotiated in the Intergovernmental Conference preceding the Lisbon Treaty on the basis of a proposal by Parliament adopted in October 2007 (Lamassoure-Severin report).

The only country to have fewer MEPs in the new Lisbon allocation of seats is Germany. According to the Nice Treaty, Germany had 99 members and, according to the new thresholds defined in the Lisbon Treaty, 96. As the June 2009 Parliament elections took place under the Nice Treaty, there are currently 99 German MEPs. All of them will continue until the end of the 2009–2014 legislatures. This explains why the total number of MEPs will not be 751 as laid down in the Lisbon Treaty, but 754, as there are still three “Nice Treaty” German MEPs in Parliament.

The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, said in August 2010 to the situation: “The issue of Observers is addresses in the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure (RoP) and can be inferred from a joint reading of paragraph 1 and 4 of article 11 RoP as amended in November 2009. In particular, paragraph 4 explicitly refers to the procedure set out in paragraph 1 which applies mutatis mutandis. According to this rule, the decision to invite observers is reserved for the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament. Only following agreement reached at the Conference of Presidents, may the President proceed to a formal invitation of observers.” So Buzek didn’t invite the new Members of the European Parliament yet.

Money versus political reasons

Some may find a political explanation why the 18 MEPs still could not work in the parliament in France. An election in some parts of France would be necessary to get two French MEPs but President Nicolas Sarkozy makes a blockade - because he did not want to lose in elections, more for symbolic reasons, but nevertheless important enough for the European Parliament.

Now some may find a new argument of postponing - the budget. The Parliament has created a € 9.4 million budget reserve in its 2011 budget to pay for the extra MEPs, but an official said in September this year no extra money had been budgeted for the observers this year. But in fact this financial argument is more the official position to camouflage the political problems in and with France.

As decided by the European Parliament on the 22nd of February 2010 (NLE/2009/0813 - AFCO Resolution on the draft protocol amending Protocol No 36 on transitional provisions concerning the composition of the European Parliament for the rest of the 2009-2014 parliamentary term: the European Parliament\’s opinion), “the resolution recalls that, in the interval between the approval of the amendment of Protocol No 36 and its entry into force, the additional MEPs will be able to sit in the European Parliament as observers”.

Hence, pending the ratification of the Protocol by the 27 Member States, it would be necessary to set a specific target date as to when the additional 18 MEPs are to start their work as observers in the European Parliament and to swiftly come to a decision with regard to the conditions under which the 18 MEPs will serve as observers in the European Parliament.

The fact that the number of MEPs will increase by 18 for 12 Member States is a well-known fact agreed upon by all the 27 Member States. Four MEPs would come from Spain, two each from France, Austria and Sweden, one each from Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and the UK.

It is not justifiable that some Member States persist in prolonging the process of inclusion of the new parliamentarians in the European Parliament by not presenting their own additional MEPs. Their hesitation is detrimental to the implementation of the structures provided for by the Lisbon Treaty as well as to the new Members such as Josef Weidenholzer who are keen to start working in the European Parliament.

Democratic deficit

Therefore, the European Parliament should by means of the Conference of the Presidents, unequivocally ask the 12 Member States which will enjoy an increase in their MEPs to immediately and urgently appoint their MEPs with a view to taking up the post of observer status in the shortest possible time. It is only fair that those elected democratically should start implementing the mandate bequeathed upon them by their people. This will certainly also be instrumental in restoring and sustaining the European citizens’ confidence in the EU.

The situation, that 16 months after the election the 18 new Members of the European Parliament do not have their seats, is creating a democratic deficit and it stands to reason that this issue should be resolved and rectified in the shortest possible time if parliamentary democracy is to be fully appreciated.

Jörg Leichtfried is Head of Delegation of the Austrian S&D-MEPs.

Your comments

  • On 12 May 2011 at 23:24, by Aymeric L. Replying to: EU Democracy gap because 18 MEPs are still missing

    So now the Parliament itself is teaching us, via one of its members, what the EU democracy gap is and that the key to solving it is a pointless temporary measure to increase the number of seats.

    Well, that’s reassuring. So we’ve got a solution to our problem. And incidentally this solution would give one more seat to the SPÖ and to a friend of Mr Leichtfried’s: great, this measure would kill two birds with one stone!

    754 or 736 MEPs, what would it change? Nothing.

    Couldn’t the Parliament wait until 2014 to get this futile reward? There are perhaps more important and urgent aspects in the Lisbon treaty that would need to be dealt with first, aren’t there?

    I encourage the French Parliament to reject the ratification of this useless measure, and the law implementing it. And I encourage all the 26 other parliament to do the same. It’s a shame that the entire Europe is bustling about ratifying this pointless measure, whereas nothing is done to stop the nationalistic behaviors that are currently questioning basic parts of the acquis such freedom of expression or free movement.

    So please, vote NO on such a meaningless treaty change!

  • On 24 May 2011 at 22:23, by Joseph Replying to: EU Democracy gap because 18 MEPs are still missing

    Hi, can you explain me how is the procces of ratification and when this new meps will take these setats in the parliament? Thanks

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