Report: Some countries clearly under-represented in outgoing European Parliament

A member of the election commission is reading a book while a voter fills out his ballot in a voting booth during the European Parliament elections at a polling station in Bratislava, Slovakia, 24 May 2014. Slovakia had the record-low turnout at the last EU poll. [Josef Jakubko/EPA/EFE]

The think-tank ‘Fondation Robert Schuman’ has published a policy paper, analysing the work of the outgoing European Parliament. One of its findings is that some member states are under-represented in the EP bodies, many of them being the countries with the lowest turnout at the last European elections.

One of the tables of the report that appears the most disturbing is the breakdown by countries of key posts in the European Parliament. While some countries have had important posts as Vice-Presidents of the Parliament, Presidents of parliamentary committees, vice-presidents of such committees, and committee coordinators, others have had very few.

From a total of 440 top positions, Germany has 74 in the current legislature, France 44, and Italy 42.

On the lower end, Latvia and Cyprus have got 1 each, Slovenia 2, Lithuania 3, Estonia and Croatia 3 each, Ireland and Luxembourg 4 each, Slovakia and Greece 6 each.

Screenshot from the report

Besides, on important dossiers, the “old” member countries have dominant positions, especially in terms of committee coordinators. As the paper suggests, they are the “traffic controllers” of political groups, they distribute the roles of their deputies within the committees, in particular to steer the parliamentary reports and negotiations on amendments.

33 of 189 coordinators of this legislature are German, 21 French, 18 Italian, 16 British and 13 Spanish or Dutch.

Is there a link with turnout?

There is some coincidence between the countries with the lower turnout at the European elections, and the less represented countries. In the 2014 elections, the average turnout for the EU28 was 42.61%, but Slovakia had 13.05%, the Czech Republic 18.20%, Slovenia 24.55%, Latvia 30.24%, Hungary 28.97%.

Asked to comment, Eric Maurice, main author of the report and head of the Brussels office of the Robert Shuman think tank, told EURACTIV that it could be assumed that the small number of MEPs in high positions from these countries and the lack of a visible function in an assembly that already seems remote to many voters accentuate the voters’ feeling that their voice counts little, or that the Parliament has no direct influence on their lives.

However, he added that to change this perception is not only the duty of the elected representatives and the parties themselves, but also of the national media, which too often neglects what is happening in the European Parliament.

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