The functioning of the European Union is founded on representative democracy. The citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. These are the main democratic principles concerning the European Parliament in the amended TEU Article 8a, and they lay the foundations for the specific Treaty provisions.
A few remarks on the Lisbon Treaty:
The amending Treaty widens the areas of legislation where European Parliament acts as a co-legislator as well as the budgetary powers of the EP. Consequently, the democratic deficit shrinks.
The “election” of the President of the European Commission is not free, but based on a proposal from the European Council. Taking the results of the European Parliament elections into account may strengthen the traits of parliamentary democracy and lead to candidates for the post being put forward by the European political parties in 2009.
The principle of “one man, one vote” with the same weight for each citizen of the Union, clashes with the principle of degressive proportionality, when the minimum threshold has been put as high as six members for the smallest member states. (The Convention proposed a minimum of four, which is still a high minimum considering the enormous differences in population between the different member states.)
If the European Union progresses towards a democratic federal constitution with two chambers, the first chamber should give more or less equal weight to each citizen of the European Union, whereas the second house could represent each state on an equal or more equal basis.
The basic provisions on European Parliament elections are vague: direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot. Until now, the elections have been more of a series of national elections than a truly European election. A uniform electoral code, based on proportional representation within each country, would be desirable.
The existing provisions on the European Parliament are Articles 189 and 190 TEC.
The Convention proposed an Article I-19 on the European Parliament. The corresponding Article in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is Article I-20 The European Parliament.
This was taken over by the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) with minor changes. As laid down “in the Constitution” has become “in the Treaties”.
Originally, the allocation of 750 seats for the legislative period 2009-2014 was supposed to be based on a proposal from the European Parliament. (See Declaration number 5 on the political agreement by the European Council concerning the draft Decision on the composition of the European Parliament.) The number and allocation of members lead to a last minute compromise in the European Council, which added one member to Italy. The MEPs shall not exceed 750 in number with the addition “plus the President”. (See Declaration number 4 on the composition of the European Parliament.)
The Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007, C 306) inserts an Article 9a TEU.
1. The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.
2. The European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens. They shall not exceed seven hundred and fifty in number, plus the President. Representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional, with a minimum threshold of six members per Member State. No Member State shall be allocated more than ninety-six seats.
The European Council shall adopt by unanimity, on the initiative of the European Parliament and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the European Parliament, respecting the principles referred to in the first subparagraph.
3. The members of the European Parliament shall be elected for a term of five years by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.
4. The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.
Next time, I am going to present the European Council.