Countries set to lose MEPs as their population shrinks

  

Several EU countries are expected to suffer drastic cuts in their number of MEPs, while a few of them, including France, UK, Italy and Spain, will benefit from a boost, according to a new proposal seen by EurActiv.

The number of MEPs from Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania will decrease drastically, under the proposal of a leading MEP.

Andrew Duff, a British Liberal MEP and a member of the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee, makes the predictions on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives Parliament the right of making a proposal on its future composition to the European Council.

The expected accession of Croatia to the EU on 1 July 2013 will also help trigger the changes, according to Duff’s paper.

Before Croatia joins the European Union in July next year, its voters will elect a number of its national parliamentarians to act as members of the European Parliament for the remainder of this Parliament's term. This will bring the number of MEPs to 766. At the European elections in June 2014, however, Croatian MEPs will be included in the 751 parliamentary seats under the Lisbon treaty.  This obviously requires cuts at the expense of other countries’ MEPs.

“One should not underestimate the short-term impact of demographic change and migration: the number of Germans, for example, continues to fall both in real terms and relative to the French and British, which are growing fast,” Duff notes in its proposal.

An EU-wide census was conducted in the 27 EU countries in 2011. The most drastic depopulation has been identified in Bulgaria, a country who has now 7,351,633 inhabitants, having lost 582,000 people over the last 10 years.

According to Duff’s proposal (see chart), Bulgaria, which now has 18 MEPs, will have two less at the 2014 European elections, and four less in 2019 and 2024.

Member State

Population

2009

2014

2019

2024

Germany

81751602

99

96

96

96

France

65075373

74

79

83

83

United Kingdom

62435709

73

76

79

80

Italy

60626442

73

75

78

78

Spain

46152926

54

58

61

61

Poland

38200037

51

51

51

51

Romania

21413815

33

31

31

31

Netherlands

16655799

26

25

25

25

Greece

11325897

22

20

19

19

Belgium

10951665

22

20

19

19

Portugal

10636979

22

20

18

18

Czech Republic

10532770

22

20

18

18

Hungary

9985722

22

20

18

17

Sweden

9415570

20

18

17

17

Austria

8404252

19

17

16

16

Bulgaria

7504868

18

16

14

14

Denmark

5560628

13

12

12

12

Slovakia

5435273

13

12

12

12

Finland

5375276

13

12

12

12

Ireland

4480858

12

11

11

11

Croatia

4412137

 

11

11

11

Lithuania

3244601

12

10

9

9

Latvia

2229641

9

8

   

The census in Hungary found that the population in this country had fallen by 2.1% only between 1 February 2011 and 1 October 2011.

In the Czech Republic, the 2011 census has counted a population of 10,562,214, almost stagnating compared to 1991, and almost equal to that of 1930.

In Lithuania, the 2011 census counted 3,053,804, down from 3,483,972 counted in 2001.

In Eastern Europe, the population has decreased not only as a result of low birth rates, but mostly as a result to immigration to more wealthy countries.

But Eastern European countries are not the only ones set to lose MEPs, according to Duff. The Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Ireland are also expected to have few MEPs.

In contrast, France, the EU country with the strongest demographic rates, will see its number of MEPs increase from 74 to 79 in 2014 and 83 in 2019. Italy will have 75 MEPs in 2014, two more than at present, and 78 in 2019.

Germany is a special case. The biggest EU country has now 99 MEPs and will have 96 in the future, the maximum number a country can have according to the Lisbon Treaty.

‘Parity of esteem’

Another issue raised by Duff is whether a number of countries would accept a bigger gap between their number of MEPs and those of other states, perceived as pairs.

“Tension rises, however, on the matter of pairing – in other words, ensuring that parity of esteem is kept among roughly similar states such as Poland and Spain, Italy and the UK, and Belgium and the Netherlands,” he notes.

As an example, under his proposal, the gap between Spain and Poland will widen from 54 to 51 MEPs to 61 to 51 MEPs (see chart).

Duff ends his proposal in rhetorical style: “The question now is can the Parliament bite the mathematical bullet or will it succumb, as the Council has done before it, to the ways and means of the Oriental bazaar?”

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