Wednesday, 11 February 2009

EU Law: European Parliament elections

Direct elections to the European Parliament were a decisive victory for European citizens in 1976, with the first directly elected EP in action since 1979.

But attempts to enact a uniform election procedure have failed miserably.

So has the European Parliament in informing the public, if I did not miss something. I failed to find any relevant information about the common principles or the duties and rights of MEPs on the European Parliament’s web pages dedicated to the European elections 2009.

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Current treaty

Paragraphs 4 and 5 of Article 190 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) set out the ambition to achieve an electoral code for the elections to the European Parliament.

The aim is expressed as a uniform procedure in all member states, but the fall-back option is the ‘or in accordance with principles common to all Member States’.
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Paragraph 5 relates to the status and functions of the members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Article 190(4) and (5) as published in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/132:



4. The European Parliament shall draw up a proposal for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States.

The Council shall, acting unanimously after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component members, lay down the appropriate provisions, which it shall recommend to Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

5. The European Parliament, after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of the Council acting by a qualified majority, shall lay down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the duties of its Members. All rules or conditions relating to the taxation of Members or former Members shall require unanimity within the Council.


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Original Lisbon Treaty

Article 2, point 117 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) changed the heading of what became Part Six of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Point 178 repealed Article 189 TEC and point 179 deleted the first three paragraphs of Article 190 TEC (cf. Article 14 of the amended Treaty on European Union).

This left the fourth and fifth paragraphs of Article 190 to be amended as presented i the Lisbon Treaty, OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/101:


INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL PROVISIONS

177) Part Five shall be renumbered ‘PART SIX’ and its heading shall be replaced by ‘INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL PROVISIONS’.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

178) Article 189 shall be repealed.

179) Article 190 shall be amended as follows:

(a) paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 shall be deleted and paragraphs 4 and 5 shall be renumbered 1 and 2 respectively;

(b) paragraph 4, renumbered 1, shall be amended as follows:

(i) in the first subparagraph, the words ‘for elections by direct universal suffrage’ shall be replaced by the following: ‘to lay down the provisions necessary for the election of its members by direct universal suffrage’;

(ii) the second subparagraph shall be replaced by the following:

‘The Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component members, shall lay down the necessary provisions. These provisions shall enter into force following their approval by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.’;

(c) in paragraph 5, renumbered 2, the words ‘, acting by means of regulations on its own initiative in accordance with a special legislative procedure’ shall be inserted after ‘The European Parliament’.


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

In the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty more constitutional aspects of the institutions are found in the Treaty on European Union Title III, with Article 14 TEU laying down the basic provisions concerning the European Parliament.

More mundane provisions relating to the institutions are collected in Part Six Institutional and financial provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), with Title 1 setting out institutional provisions. The first Chapter is headed The institutions, which begins with Section 1 The European Parliament.

Article 223 TFEU takes over and amends the leftovers, paragraphs 4 and 5 of Article 190 TEC, OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/149:


PART SIX
INSTITUTIONAL AND FINANCIAL PROVISIONS

TITLE I
INSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS

CHAPTER 1
THE INSTITUTIONS

SECTION 1
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Article 223 TFEU
(ex Article 190(4) and (5) TEC)

1. The European Parliament shall draw up a proposal to lay down the provisions necessary for the election of its Members by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States.

The Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component Members, shall lay down the necessary provisions. These provisions shall enter into force following their approval by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

2. The European Parliament, acting by means of regulations on its own initiative in accordance with a special legislative procedure after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of the Council, shall lay down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the duties of its Members. All rules or conditions relating to the taxation of Members or former Members shall require unanimity within the Council.


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Comment

Direct elections were foreseen in the Treaty of Rome, but it took until 1976 for the member states to agree on a directly elected Assembly (Decision 76/787). The first directly elected European Parliament began its activities in 1979.

The uniform electoral code remains the first option in Article 223(1) TFEU, but these efforts have failed, and only principles common to all Member States have been agreed, leading to huge variations between the member states. The elections are not even held on the same day in the whole European Union.

Even if the wording on the Council decision has changed, the essentials remain as cumbersome as before: Unanimous decision and approval by every member state.

The second paragraph has been reworded to underline the internal autonomy of the European Parliament.

The Treaty of Lisbon offers little new. The same can be said about the European Parliament’s web pages about the European elections 2009.

I failed to find any basic information about the common rules for the elections, or about the general conditions governing the performance of the duties of the MEPs to be elected.


Ralf Grahn