Next Wednesday you are called to vote on a resolution on the composition of the European Parliament. It includes provisions for the setup of a European constituency where members of the European Parliament could be elected on transnational lists. We believe this would be an important step to increase the European dimension of the European election, strengthen the European political parties and public debate, and give European citizens an additional tool to engage in European politics. We encourage you to vote in favour of the proposal and reject any amendment against the European constituency.
On the occasion, we would like to react to the puzzling arguments that some members of the EPP group have put forward against the ideas of transnational lists and European (joint) constituency in a video last week [31 January 2018]. See our answers below. You can also read our latest publication explaining how transnational lists are good for European democracy.
“1. Such constituency would bypass the current link between the Members and their electorate. Therefore building up on a more distant and centralized Union, rather than a more democratic and accountable one.”
This is not correct. The current link between MEPs elected in the national or local constituencies and their electorates would not change at all, as the current constituencies would not be affected by the creation of a European one and the election of additional MEPs. European citizens will continue to elect the same number of Members of the European Parliament in their national (or local) constituencies, like they have always done. Transnational lists ADD a further tool to European democracy and create an additional link between the local and the European level: by casting a SECOND vote for candidates presented on a transnational list, European citizens will double up their say on European political choices, without losing in any possible way their locally-based representation in the European Parliament. It will make Europe closer to its citizens, not more distant, more understandable, democratic and accountable, not less.
“2. The transnational list would be perceived as a drift to centralism.”
Just the opposite. National representation will continue to be the rule as the size of the pan-European constituency would be a very small fraction of the total size of national (/local) constituencies. It’s more likely that the transnational lists will be perceived as a further tool for citizens to better influence European choices and better participate in the European political system.
“3. The list would most probably be utilised by populist movements that would then get further visibility and capitalize on extremist views around Europe.”
Populists will be the losers. Populist movements are trapped in their nationalism and prosper on pretending to defend national interests against other national electorates. They would be divided and unable to play a role in transnational lists in a EU-wide constituency. Populist movements will be fought off by using the right arguments and political values, not by halving the voting possibilities of European citizens.
“4. Transnational lists do not promote democracy; indeed they subvert its logic to an elitist top-down approach.”
Come on! How can the right to choose additional members of the European Parliament reduce European democracy? It will enhance European democracy. It will help transforming the European elections from a patchwork of national elections, focused often on national issues, into a more European election, with clearer European choices and issues presented to European citizens. European political parties could very well choose the method they repute the best to compile their own transnational list. If that is behind closed doors rather than involving their national and/or individual members, that is up to them to decide.
“5. Collecting protest votes all over Europe, populists could end up choosing the next candidate to president of the European Commission in the next legislature.”
Impossible. The members of the European Parliament elected on transnational lists would likely reflect the same proportion of the political parties as in the national lists. Their limited number would not change the balance of power in the European Parliament when deciding the choice of the president of the European Commission. Nationalist parties will be the losers of such a system, because they will neutralise each other, each prisoner of their own nationalism, unable to be real political forces.
“6. A European constituency (whose existence is yet far from being agreed upon) would expand the already existing gap between smaller and larger Member States.”
Why should it? In a European constituency there is no small or large Member State, there are only European citizens and their representatives.
“7. It would launch a debate on the status of the Members of this house, whether elected through national or transnational lists.”
This is not correct. All the MEPs have the same rights and duties, regardless from their constituency. They are set out in the Treaties and in the rules of procedure of the European Parliament. Despite MEPs elected in bigger Member States currently represent more people than MEPs elected in smaller ones, there is no distinction in the status of the former and the latter MEPs within the European Parliament. The introduction of a European constituency would not alter this. Moreover, in many states inside and beyond Europe, members of national parliaments are elected in overlapping constituencies with different sizes, without this entailing any difference in the status of elected MPs.
“8. Besides, in the absence of a European constituency, it is hard to know to which citizens these putative transnational list MEPs would be accountable.”
Incomprehensible. Art. 14(2) TEU is quite clear: “The European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union’s citizens”. Should any doubt remain on this issue, recalling that MEPs elected on European lists are voted by European citizens should be enough.
“9. At the end of the day, a possible transnational list cannot be adopted without the necessary legal basis, which is currently not provided neither in the Treaties nor in EU Electoral Law.”
It’s time to fix this! The Treaties provide sufficient legal basis for the competent institutions (European Parliament, European Council and Council of the EU) to make the necessary decisions to both set up the European constituency and agree an electoral law which includes transnational lists.
“10. Not even the most successfully integrated federations, such as the United States, Switzerland and Germany, have a single national constituency.”
This is a misleading comparison. The EU-wide constituency would not be the only constituency, just an additional one, side by side with national constituencies. Existing federations have other systems to ensure a direct link between the citizens and the federal level, which the EU doesn’t have yet. The transnational lists would be one of the many elements of novelty of the EU as a political system that wants to find the best balance between the national and European levels.
European citizens count on your support for a better European democracy.