The Treaty of Lisbon lays down the basic numbers and principles regarding representation in the European Parliament, as well as the procedure whereby the European Council makes the decision.
If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force after the European elections 2009, the European Council wants to see transitional measures in place until the end of the 2009 to 2014 parliamentary term.
Is the European Council meeting today and tomorrow going to bring any clarity as to how?
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, Article 14(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the European Council decides on the composition of the European Parliament.
The decision has to be:
2) within the treaty limits
3) based on an initiative by the European Parliament
4) with the consent of the European Parliament
Article 14(2) TEU (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/22─23)
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.
Because the Lisbon Treaty has not entered into force, the European elections from 4 to 7 June 2009 will be arranged under the modified Treaty of Nice. Lisbon and Nice differ on both the total numbers and the allocation of seats between member states.
In other words, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the numbers at treaty level would change during the parliamentary term.
There are two concrete complications:
The number of German MEPs would decrease from 99 to 96, after the election. Should three MEPs be expelled, perhaps only a few months into their mandate?
Twelve member states would gain a seat or two. This complicates matters both at national level (elections/by-elections) and at EU level.
December 2008 European Council
The European Council on 11 and 12 December 2008 agreed politically on a way forward. In a declaration annexed to the Presidency conclusions (Council document 17271/1/08 REV 1) the European Council agreed on devising transitional measures for the rest of the 2009─2014 term.
The declaration acknowledged that legal procedures are necessary, but it failed to detail the means.
The German surplus was treated by a masterstroke of oblique language, without mentioning the country: the total number of MEPs will rise from 736 to 754 until the end of the 2009-2014 legislative period. The objective is that this modification should enter into force, if possible, during the year 2010.
Treaty level change is needed to modify the treaty, even transitionally. I have argued that it would be preferable to start the process as a separate exercise without delay, in order to enter into force if the Treaty of Lisbon does.
The European Council has indicated only that it would like the modification to enter into force during 2010, but has not explained how. It may have in mind to piggyback the following accession agreement (Croatia).
The additional representation for twelve member states (15 MEPs) is more of a complication at national level. How are the new MEPs going to be elected, as reserves in June 2009 or separately later? If later, this would thwart the character of proportional elections.
Have the member states in question came up with solutions?
Here is the text of the declaration:
Declaration of the European Council
Treaty of Lisbon – Transitional measures concerning the composition of the European Parliament
In the event that the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force after the European elections of June 2009, transitional measures will be adopted as soon as possible, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, in order to increase, until the end of the 2009-2014 legislative period, in conformity with the numbers provided for in the framework of the IGC which approved the Treaty of Lisbon, the number of MEPs of the twelve Member States for which the number of MEPs was set to increase. Therefore, the total number of MEPs will rise from 736 to 754 until the end of the 2009-2014 legislative period. The objective is that this modification should enter into force, if possible, during the year 2010.
Even a short passage is able to raise as many questions as it answers, but it shows that the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon requires continuous public reporting on progress and proposals.
What can we expect from the Czech Council Presidency today and tomorrow?