European ParliamentThe European Parliament is trying to decide how numbers of MEPs will be allocated between different Member States in the future. News about it from EUObserver here. The Severin-Lamassoure idea is there should be 750 MEPs, with 6 per Member State, and a maximum of 96 for the largest country. Seats for the countries in between will be allocated according to “degressive proportionality” – this is broadly similar to the arrangement at present (see Wikipedia). Essentially the EU finds itself in this position because that’s what has always happened, and allocation of votes in the Council is currently done in a similarly ad hoc fashion (until the Reform Treaty system starts in 2014).

But where can we look for some principles about how we might organise all of this? Essentially if we start with the federalist idea that the European Parliament is the body that represents the people of Europe, and the Council the body that represents the states, we should aim to ensure that each individual EU citizen is equally represented in the European Parliament – or at least more equally than before. At the moment 1 Maltese MEP represents 60.000 citizens and 1 German MEP represents 600.000 – should we not be asking whether that is right or not? If the Lamassoure-Severin report were to be implemented that would remain more or less unchanged.

For what it’s worth, here is my idea for a system. Allocate each Member State 6 MEPs as a start. This allows a decent degree of party competition (we’ll rule out trans-national lists for the moment). Then allocate 1 additional MEP for every million citizens. Hence Germany, with 80 million citizens, would get 86 MEPs. Malta, with less than 1 million citizens, would get 6. Sweden with 9 million citizens would get 15. With 27 Member States, and 490 million population, that would leave you wil a EP of 652 seats. Even with an eventual accession of all of the Balkans and Turkey the figure would be nudging 750. It’s simple and principled, and has no hope whatsoever of getting anywhere.

6 Comments

  1. That made me smile! Surely Nigel Farage should be in seat 666.. 🙂

    This info must surely be somewhere on the EP’s website. It essentially depends on role in the EP (responsible ones at the front), then political group (slices of the pie of the hemicycle), and then on alphabetical order.

  2. James Herzel

    Why is there no one assigned to seat #666 even though there are 785 members?
    Where can one find a list of seats and who occupies them?

  3. More members – I can see the logical argument for that, but it would lead once more to the EP being seen as a waste of cash. I don’t agree with that statement, but that’s how such an increase would be perceived…

    As for the second point: very true. The UK could I suppose choose its own allocation system that assisted Scotland if it wished to – within the broader framework of the proportional system/

  4. Two points on this. First, I am not convinced by the argument that the EP cannot grow. Why cannot it not be 1000 members? Or more? All of its meaningful work is done in committees and these are still of a reasonable size. You make it increasingly difficult for the EP delegations not just of small countries, but even medium sized ones, effectively to cover all the delegations. Then there is a matter which is not for the EP, of course, and that is the distribution of seats within countries. With the anticipated drop in UK numbers, it is equally expected – on a population basis – that Scotland will go from 7 to 6, having not so long ago been 8. Any Scottish MEP will tell you that there is a world of difference being part of the group representing that part of the UK as compared, for example, to Yorkshire. They have a whole layer of government to interact with, namely Holyrood, which simply doesn’t exist in England. In effect, they have to act as a “national delegation” and cover all of the main areas of work between them, which is tough. That’s been made part of the argument that it should not be Scotland which has another drop. Incidentally, it must be even tougher in Wales and Northern Ireland.

  5. Your proposal seems good, even if I think the best way would be that of starting to think in terms of electoral districts more than national quotas.
    After having decided the size of an electoral district that can elect an MEP, then it is just a matter of dividing the various countries following that principle… but I know this would be very hard to be obtained at present, your proposal seems much more pragmatic.

  6. I fully agree with such a proposal but “simple and principled” is not the way an intergovernmental Europe works. Heads of government need to be able to claim “victory” when they are back from European council meetings. Also, if Europe was simple, citizens might understand it and want to have a say in how it works… a highly dangerous prospect.

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