Saturday, 1 May 2010

Shame on EU: Unelected MEPs

Had the European Union existed, Adam Smith might have written:

People of the EU institutions seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to shortchange the citizens.

Our dear and great leaders have come nowhere near the perfection of Kim Jong-il, who orchestrated the March 2009 elections for the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly, gaining 687 seats out of 687 for the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, but appointing members of the European Parliament without EP elections and proportionality is a remarkable step towards North Korean standards of electoral democracy.

Ghost MEPs

The governments and parliaments in a few EU member states neglected to lay down fair and equitable rules for the election of the 18 additional members of the European Parliament, ahead of the June 2009 elections, should the Treaty of Lisbon enter into force.

As explained in a press release from the European Parliament, the Lisbon Treaty raises the number of MEPs from 736 to 751. Twelve countries should be able to send new MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg: four new seats for Spain; two seats each for Austria, France and Sweden; one additional MEP each for Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

In addition, the heads of state or government took pity on Germany, which should have lost three seats under the Lisbon Treaty, from 99 to 96. The European Council wanted all 99 current German members, already elected, to be able to continue their mandate until the end of the 2009─2014 legislature. Thus, the number of MEPs would temporarily rise to 754. This requires treaty level change.

European Council / Council

The letter Revision of the Treaties – Transitional measures concerning the composition of the European Parliament (4 December 2009; document 17196/09) summed up the positions taken by the European Council regarding the phantom MEPs, by proposing an amendment to protocol 36.

The incompetent and negligent member states were allowed to designate the persons who will fill the additional seats in accordance with their national legislation provided that the persons in question have been elected by direct universal suffrage:

(a) either in ad hoc elections by direct universal suffrage in the Member State concerned, in accordance with the provisions applicable for elections to the European Parliament;

(b) or by reference to the results of the European elections from 4 to 7 June 2009;

(c) or by designation by the national parliament of the Member State concerned from among its members of the requisite number of members, according to the procedure determined by each of those Member States.

Why do I object?

Paragraph (a) means that our leaders accept ad hoc elections without proportional representation, a fundamental feature of EU election law.

Paragraph (c) disregards not only proportional representation, but allows government majorities to appoint national parliamentarians, elected for national office.

As I have written earlier (Search for 18 “ghost MEPs – Scandal in the making?), the only way to show respect for the will of the voters in the June 2009 elections to the European Parliament is to distribute the extra seat(s) according objective criteria: the electoral district (if any) next in line and the candidate next in line according to the vote.

Only paragraph (b) complies with the requirements of universal suffrage for the EP and proportional representation, but the European Council and the Council have cowardly conspired and contrived to rob the voters of their democratic right to fair representation.

European Parliament

Member state governments’ scant regard for citizens’ political rights in the European Union is no novelty. The proposal is based on political greed and consensus by laxity.

However, I would expect the European Parliament to take a principled stand.

Instead, the EP Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) “regrets” the incompetence of the national governments and the open disregard for the principles of the EP election code.

Only five AFCO members voted against and two abstained, while 16 fellow-travellers sided with the national governments (report A7-0115/2010. See also report A7-0116/2010 on consent to convene an intergovernmental conference without a Convention).

After a debate on Wednesday 5 May 2010, the European Parliament seems set to adopt the resolutions on Thursday 6 May.

European Commission

Laxity is not confined to the Council and the European Parliament. The European Commission – meant to promote the general interest – has participated in this cosy stitch-up by hiding behind the other institutions:

Since the proposal reflects the political agreement among Member States that was reached in view of the Treaty entering into force after the June 2009 European elections, the Commission recommends opening an Intergovernmental Conference as soon as possible, remaining strictly limited to discussion of the Spanish proposal for a protocol amending Protocol No 36 on Transitional Provisions.

Source: COMMISSION OPINION pursuant to the first subparagraph of Article 48(3) of the Treaty on European Union on a European Council decision in favour of examining amendments to the Treaties concerning the composition of the European Parliament, as proposed by the Government of Spain; Brussels, 27.4.2010; COM(2010) 189 final (page 3)

Appointed parliamentarians. Shame on EU.

Ralf Grahn