We have gone through a bewildering array of numbers of the members of the European Parliament in the media during these last years. Proposals by the European Convention, intergovernmental conferences leading to the Constitutional Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon, ten new EU member states in 2004 and two newcomers in 2007. And then back to the Treaty of Nice, when the Lisbon Treaty was stalled, and the accession treaty.
Where do we stand ahead of the European elections in June 2009?
Since the Lisbon Treaty has not entered into force, we have to look at the current treaties, last published in a consolidated (readable) form in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 29.12.2006 C 321 E.
Article 189 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) reads like this (page 130):
Article 189 TEC
The European Parliament, which shall consist of representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community, shall exercise the powers conferred upon it by this Treaty.
The number of Members of the European Parliament shall not exceed 732.
Fine, but …
The correct number of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to be elected is 732, right?
But why does the Wikipedia article European Parliament election, 2009, tell us that elections to the European Parliament will be held in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) between 4 and 7 June 2009. 736 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be elected by proportional representation to represent some 500,000,000 Europeans, making these the biggest trans-national elections in history?
If we believe the Wikipedia article, we would unlawfully elect four more MEPs than the mximum number allowed by the treaty.
We can soon see that the Wikipedia number is no typo “while 736 MEPs will be elected under the Nice rules, this number would have increased to 751 if the Lisbon Treaty were in force”. Even the charts below give the total number as 736.
Try to verify
A general reference to the Treaty of Nice does not bring us very far, so we have to look around for explanations.
The following treaty provision is Article 190 TEC, with a discrete footnote telling us: Article amended by the 2003 Act of Accession. See Appendix at the end of this publication.
Article 190(1) TEC tells us that the representatives in the European Parliament of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community shall be elected by direct universal suffrage.
The second paragraph of Article 190 TEC looks more promising, starting with the words:
The number of representatives elected in each Member State shall be as follows: ---
If we are alert, we find 25 member states mentioned. We just have to be steadfast enough to count, have a memory good enough to realize that Bulgaria and Romania are missing, and humble enough to follow the hint to look up the Annex (in a consolidation published three days before the latest accession).
Trudge to the end of the consolidation and there you find the Appendix on page 325. Two pages later the text begins under the heading Amendments to primary legislation further to the accession of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, followed by:
Further to the entry in force of the Treaty concerning the accession of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, the following articles shall be amended as set out below.
We do not have to proceed far to find the following point of interest:
3. With effect from the start of the 2009-2014 term, in Article 190(2) the first subparagraph shall be replaced by the following:
‘2. The number of representatives elected in each Member State shall be as follows:
Having found a possible solution to the problem of four surplus MEPs, we are not even going to quibble that the Appendix left the misleading maximum number in place.
For the benefit of more seriously inclined EU citizens we are going to show our gratitude towards public communications official by presenting our own consolidation of the consolidated version of Article 190 TEC.
This is how it should look in everybody’s books ahead of the European elections for the 2009 to 2014 term:
Article 190 TEC as amended by the 2003 Act of Accession
1. The representatives in the European Parliament of the peoples of the States brought together
in the Community shall be elected by direct universal suffrage.
2. The number of representatives elected in each Member State shall be as follows:
Czech Republic 22
United Kingdom 72.
In the event of amendments to this paragraph, the number of representatives elected in each Member State must ensure appropriate representation of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community.
3. Representatives shall be elected for a term of five years.
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.
Think about it ─ The truth is out there
We have now repeated the experiment of arriving at the same number of MEPs to be elected in June for the 2009 to 2014 term, despite the misleading treaty number. Our individual numbers for each country tally with those of Wikipedia.
More importantly, we have demonstrated the blessings of living in societies dedicated to the rule of law, openness and transparency.
Basic information and final decisions at least are usually found somewhere, if we care to dig. Globally we are among the lucky ones, although public information could be more accessible at times.
We could marry the Princess and live happily ever after, if not bothered by the doubt that our heads of government or state had cooked up something at their December 2008 powwow …
P.S. Even if I think that public information should offer the hard facts first, such as laws, regulations, decisions, proposals, I understand that most people are interested in what happens in the real world. For the European election campaigns you can turn to Julien Frisch for coverage: