Sunday, 13 November 2011

More Europe Manifesto calls for European Electoral Act

After my latest post about a single seat for the European Parliament, we return to More Europe. In order to overcome the crises in the eurozone and the wider European Union, a group of Spanish eurobloggers has launched an appeal for More Europe.

You can read and sign the appeal on the More Europe blog. You can participate in the Twitter discussion @moreurope and under the hashtag #moreurope, and you can help to spread the word among citizens of the European Union.

The initiators act as EU citizens. Hence they want to build on European achievements important for ordinary people. Their appeal is now available in eight languages.

After stating the need for greater European integration, their seventh proposal aims at an electoral Act for the European Parliament.


“More Europe” Statement

Given the dramatic social situation in many Member States caused by the economical crisis and the anti-European voices predicting the breakup of the Economic and Monetary Union, the undersigned ask for More Europe.

We consider it is necessary to move to a greater European integration in order to address the current situation of social and economic crisis affecting Europe and for this reason we will join our forces as European citizens. To achieve our goal we claim that:

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7) We propose the creation of a European Electoral Act to regulate European Parliament elections. This measure will prevent European Parliament elections campaigns to develop in national key. It would also help citizens to learn about the work of their representatives in the European Parliament, it will foster public debate and participation among citizens, and promote the visibility and understanding of policies that are decided and implemented at a European level.

The platform More Europe calls citizens to support and join the defense of a greater European integration. We appeal citizens to join forces and contribute to build a bottom-up project, which will allow all of us to feel a greater identification with the common project of the European Union. This is necessary to preserve the current unity of our continent, that has historically been fragmented, and that is currently possible thanks to the process of European integration and the institutional design created by all of us.


European Parliament

The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) already had a consultative assembly from 1952, drawn from national parliaments, as a democratic embellishment, later shared with the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom).

Despite some progress, it took until 1979 for the first directly elected European Parliament to emerge.


Existing electoral rules

The (consolidated) contents of the common electoral rules have not been conveniently available to EU citizens, as I found out ahead of the EP election 2009 (but also got help).

Since the legal portal Eur-Lex still does not seem to offer (easy) access to the Act in force (consolidated), the best resource available is probably again the consolidated version in a Duff report, this time the one we discuss below. See ANNEX I – Consolidated version of the Act concerning the election of the representatives of the Assembly by direct universal suffrage annexed to the Council decision of 20 September 1976, and of the subsequent amendments thereto (pages 9-13).


AFCO report

If we jump to more current events, we find that Andrew Duff MEP has drafted a report adopted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament, but not voted on yet by the plenary.

The proposal would attribute an added 25 seats in the EP to candidates proposed by the European political parties (Europarties) throughout the 27 member states. These members would be elected in a pan-EU constituency from transnational lists.

Every elector would have two votes - one for the national or regional list and one for the transnational, pan-European list:

Committee on Constitutional Affairs: DRAFT SECOND REPORT on a proposal for a modification of the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage of 20 September 1976; 20.9.2011, rapporteur: Andrew Duff

You can follow the next steps of the procedure under 2009/2134(INI).


Weaknessess

The descriptive part highlights some of the existing weaknesses worth mentioning:

H. popular recognition of Parliament's democratic function remains limited, political parties at European level are still in the early stages of development, electoral campaigning remains more national than European, and media reporting of Parliament's proceedings is irregular,

I. overall turnout in the elections to Parliament has fallen steadily from 63 per cent in 1979 to 43 per cent in 2009,

The low proportion of women candidates is mentioned.

The Duff report offers an introductory view of the state of EP electoral rules and a number of proposed amendments and points to negotiate with the member states. I invite my readers to evaluate and to discuss these issues as well.


European Electoral Act

The More Europe Manifesto seems to have set its sight slightly higher, by calling for a European Electoral Act, more than some ad hoc amendments and principles.

The shorter name would be an improvement in itself.

The initiators want to make the European Parliament election campaigns more European, make the work of the European Parliament better known, foster public debate and participation among citizens, and promote the visibility and understanding of policies that are decided and implemented at a European level.

In a union based on its citizens, the vote of each elector should have roughly the same weight. However, the existing rule of ”degressive proportionality” may prove a hard nut to crack, both within the European Parliament and especially among the member states (unanimity twice).

Even the cautious step of an extra EU-wide vote is seen by some as diluting national representation, instead of as a step forward towards real and lively participation by EU citizens at the European level.

Here, progressive member states need to show leadership by forming a reform group.


More Europe proposals

I have mentioned the positive More Europe initiative of the Spanish eurobloggers in earlier posts: announcement, free movement, EU symbols and education about European integration, fiscal and social harmonisation in the eurozone, EU-wide constituencies and the next Commission president to emerge with a clear political mandate from the voters in the elections to the European Parliament, as well as the call for a single seat for the European Parliament.

The More Europe proposals are worth discussion among citizens and politicians. Read and sign the appeal on the More Europe blog, participate in the Twitter discussion @moreurope and under the hashtag #moreurope. Read, think and share in Europe 2.0 mode.



Ralf Grahn