Eu Elections 2024: Will there be More seats in Parliament?

Politics - June 4, 2024

The European Parliament is the only EU institution that is directly elected by European citizens and is the body that helps ensure the democratic legitimacy of European law.
Its members are elected by universal suffrage by the citizens of the European Union, and MEPs sit in parliament for a legislative term of five years.

The European Parliament is the only institution in the EU directly elected by the citizens, guarantees the democratic legitimacy of the Union, and possesses a number of decisive functions such as adopting or rejecting proposed directives.

Prior to direct elections to the Europarliament, which took place for the first time in 1979, members of the Assembly were appointed by the national parliaments of the member states. The predecessor of the EU Parliament, the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (Czech), had only a supervisory role. Personalities such as former Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, former Italian Council Presidents Alcide De Gasperi and Giuseppe Pella, and German Hans Furler presided over the Assembly between 1952 and 1958.

The Plenary of the Euro Chamber celebrated its 70th anniversary on November 22 last year. In fact, the first session of what was then the Czech (European Coal and Steel Community) Parliamentary Assembly took place in 1952. At that time it consisted of 78 representatives, all appointed from within the national parliaments of what were the six member states. Hence the birth of the European Parliament as we know it todayThe role of MEPs is to ensure the democratic functioning of the EU institutions and to represent citizens’ interests in the European legislative process. All EU citizens have the right to vote and stand for election in the member state in which they reside.
The European Parliament has three main functions: it shares legislative power with the Council of the Union; it exercises democratic control over all EU institutions, bodies and organs, and in particular over the Commission, as it has the power to approve and reject the appointment of European Commissioners and to collectively censure the Commission; and it shares with the Council of the Union the EU’s budgetary power and can, therefore, change EU expenditures.

The European Parliament currently consists of 705 MEPs and represents a total of about 450 million people.
On the issue of the number of MEPs recently, there have been proposals to increase the number of MEPs so that society is adequately represented in parliament as a result of the demographic changes that have occurred as of 2019.
In particular, on last June 2023, thus one year away from the next elections that will decide the new parliamentary arrangement, MEPs now in office brought forward the proposal to increase seats for nine of the twenty-seven countries of the European Union.
According to this proposal, the intention would be to proceed with increasing the total number of MEPs from the current 705 to a total of 716.
The proposal will also have to be examined by the Council of the European Union, the body that has the final decision on the proposal and through which it will be possible to make it a reality.
In addition, a unanimous vote cast by all member states will also be needed for this proposal to become a reality.
Let us proceed to analyze the proposal put forward by the MEPs, while also providing some useful information to understand the context within which it was developed.
First of all, it should be remembered that according to the treaties of the European Union a maximum number of MEPs is set. That number is set at 750, to which the president must be added. As for the number of seats each country is entitled to, this is decided before each European election.

Currently, the European Parliament has 705 seats and no longer 751 (i.e., those present until the UK leaves the EU on 31st January 2020).
The distribution of seats takes into account both the size of the population of the member states and the need to ensure an adequate level of representation for European citizens in smaller countries. This principle, known as “degressive proportionality,” is enshrined in the Treaty on European Union. Under this principle, smaller countries have fewer MEPs than larger countries, yet MEPs from larger countries will represent more people than their colleagues from smaller countries.
Averaging all the seats, we find that the minimum number of seats per country is 6 (in particular, this number regards Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg and Malta) and the maximum number is 96 (referring to Germany).
In these recent years, however, there have been demographic changes that should also be taken into account in politics in Europe. Specifically, therefore, the proposal envisions an increase in seats for the countries of Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Ireland, Slovenia and Latvia, precisely in order to match population growth with political representation in parliament. Specifically, it provides for: the increase of 2 seats for Spain, which would thus have a total of 61 MEPs; the addition of 2 seats for the Netherlands, for a total of 31 seats in Parliament; an extra seat for Austria, which would thus gain 20 seats; 1 extra seat also for Denmark, for a total of 15 MEPs; similarly, an extra MEP is expected for Finland, which would come to 15 MEPs; 1 extra also for Slovakia, so that it would have 14 representatives; Slovenia would also like an extra seat, for a total of 19 seats; finally, +1 also for Latvia, with a total of 9 seats at its disposal in Brussels.

The composition of the Parliament is assessed before each election, referring both to the principles established within the European Union Treaties and on the basis of the latest demographics of the various European countries.
According to the text proposed, MEPs want to maintain a reserve of 28 seats for members who might be elected in a future transnational constituency, in line with Parliament’s proposal on EU electoral law, which is on the Council’s table. MEPs warn that any further delay in the Council’s work on this reform would be contrary to the principle of loyal cooperation, as the Council’s decision would have an impact on the elections to the European Parliament and precisely its composition.
The EU Parliament adopted the proposal on its composition with the intention of increasing the number of seats by 11, for a total of 716, ahead of the European elections in June 2024.
The proposed European Council decision was adopted by 316 votes to 169 with 67 abstentions. The resolution accompanying the proposal was adopted with 312 votes in favor, 201 against and 44 abstentions.
On this issue, the co-rapporteur Loránt VINCZE, member of the Group of the European People’s Party, Christian Democrats, declared as follows: “Out of the numerous proposals for seat distribution presented both in Committee and Plenary, Parliament today maintained the initial proposal we submitted with my co-rapporteur colleague. The solution is a balanced one and the least intrusive in the existing balance in citizen representation. It only adds the least amount of seats needed to comply with a strict interpretation of the degressive proportionality principle from the Treaties and only where these are objectively justified without resorting to cuts in case of any country. I am confident it has a high likelihood of meeting the European Council’s unanimous approval.”

The European Parliament’s proposal seems to have aroused mixed opinions. In fact, although there is broad support for making this proposal a reality, there remains some reticence on the part of several member states who have a different view on the issue of seat division.
In terms of moving the proposal forward, it will now be up to the European Council to decide. The EU Council, in particular, will have to adopt a decision unanimously, which will then also require the approval of the Parliament.
There is a willingness on the part of MEPs to move forward quickly in view of the elections to be held in less than a year across the EU. In fact, it will be necessary to move quickly so that all the member states included in this revolution can proceed to make the necessary changes in time for the June 2024 polls. This is why they have asked to be informed immediately if the European Council intends to deviate from the submitted proposal.
For now, there has been no decisive answer on the issue. We will see whether the next round of elections will be marked by these changes or whether the process desired by the European Parliament will require more time and work to materialize itself.