One head, two votes: The case for a pan-European list for EU elections

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

European federalists see the UK's departure as a golden opportunity to reform the electoral system. [European Parliament]

In the 2019 European elections, voters should be able to cast two votes: one for their national representative and another for a second representative elected by a single European electoral college, argues Giorgio Clarotti.

Giorgio Clarotti is a member of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) Europe Group.

This has often been proposed in the past and was again mentioned by European Parliament presidential candidate Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE) in his recent draft report on Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union. This would offer each European voter the chance to vote for a true European candidate, not only those proposed by national or regional parties. This would mean campaigns spanning more than one country and possibly transforming the current associations of national parties into coherent European-level parties. It is a pity his proposal was turned down by the constitutional affairs committee.

Not the least because Brexit would have provided the perfect opportunity to implement this system. The 73 seats vacated by the current UK MEPs could have been reallocated to a single European Electoral list, creating the emergence of real European MEPs.

In the wake of the election of the next European Parliament president next week, European federalists are asking all candidates for the EP presidency to take a stand: will they include this proposal in their mandate’s objectives?

To date, in all countries, candidates for the European Parliament have competed in national or regional elections, based on local lists and campaigning on topical national issues. Europe and European issues are seldom mentioned, frustrating European federalists who would like to vote for their best European candidate, whatever their nationality.

In the last European elections, the choice of so-called “Spitzenkandidaten” competing for the Commission presidency spurred some transnational debates and forced EU-level parties to select and support a single candidate across the whole bloc. Only the UK opposed this in 2014. As nationalist parties gain influence, there is no certainty that this can happen again for the next European elections in 2019.

In the #1Head2Votes campaign, European federalists are asking all EP Presidential candidates, if they support turning the 73 UK seats, after Brexit, into a European College from which all EU voters could select the best European MEPs.

It is up to the EP itself to propose the 2019 electoral rules. They could use this chance to empower Europeans to elect the best Europeans to represent them directly.

In 2017, France, Germany and the Netherlands will have elections and, in two of them, Eurosceptic parties calling for EU exit are performing well in polls. Eurosceptic parties are also polling strongly in two other founding states: Belgium and Italy. While federalist parties start preparing for the next EP elections, the chances are they may not even take place in 2019.

The #1Head2Votes campaign proposal is therefore now advocated by most European federalist movements and parties as an objective for the 2019 European elections. Brexit requires that the 73 UK MEPs are redistributed. Member states are already starting to argue over how to allocate these seats. The creation of an EU Electoral College would replace this quarrel with a new pan-European election giving more legitimacy to the European Parliament.

On 19 December, Andrew Duff endorsed the idea and even Captain Europe toasted to the launch of the #1Head2Votes campaign.

Next stop: the election of the European Parliament president, in the week of 16 January 2017. For the first time in the history of the EP, this promises to be a true election, with European groups having all nominated their candidates who will compete for the votes of the 751 MEPs. Electoral law is one of the few issues on which the Parliament has the right of initiative and we are challenging all candidates to campaign for or reject the #1Head2Votes proposal.

Guy Verhofstadt at least should champion this old idea, made new thanks to Brexit.

What a beautiful irony it would be, if thanks to his campaign for Brexit, Nigel Farage is eventually replaced by a true European MEP.