Monday, 20 April 2009

European Union: One citizen, one vote

The democratic ideal is equal representation: One citizen, one vote.

The European Union is based more on its member states than on its citizens. Voting weight (when any votes can be taken) in the Council and representation in the European Parliament have been fixed through political negotiations by treaty level provisions, far from giving each EU citizen equal weight.

Julien Frisch’s blog post European Parliament elections 2009 (86): Are the Scottish underrepresented? (20 April 2009) illustrated the problem in the context of a potentially independent Scotland and its number of MEPs.

My own comment to that was:

The principle of degressive proportionality has been put into practice in a way which favours the smallest member states too much.

It is not based on popular representation, but on representation for member states.

This structural flaw becomes an argument for secession of regions within member states.

The 'first chamber' of the European Parliament should give each citizen's vote more or less the same weight.

Then it would be neutral with regard to independence movements within member states.

But the current arrangments form a package with Council voting rights.

Structural flaws like these are often hard to correct later. The Lisbon Treaty makes matters even worse by awarding a minimum of six MEPs to each member state.

Just as an illustration: Under Lisbon, if 83 million Germans were rearranged into 166 mini-states of half a million inhabitants each, they would be entitled to 996 MEP seats, way beyond the total number of seats in the European Parliament.


The Lisbon Treaty, Article 14(2) of the amended Treaty on European Union, offers the wrong incentives. As we saw, the end results could be absurd in extreme cases:

Article 14(2) TEU

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.


Liberal democracy is based on the individual. The vote of each citizen should have the same weight.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Julien Frisch has started a new mirror blog in German: Julien Frisch (Deutsch). Take a look.