EU’s 18 ‘phantom’ MEPs remain in the shadows

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18 additional MEPs are set to join the ranks of the European Parliament this year following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. But disagreements persist over the selection process at national level.

The European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee met on Monday evening (8 February) with Spanish State Secretary for European Affairs Diego López Garrido to decide on the future of the 'phantom' MEPs.

Spain is set to win four of the 18 additional parliamentary seats to be awarded under the Lisbon Treaty and the country wants to find a solution before the end of the Spanish EU Presidency on 30 June.

Asked on Monday by Liberal MEP Andrew Duff (UK) about the French "decision" to select its two additional MEPs from the ranks of the National Assembly, López Garrido defended France's position, insisting that EU leaders had already given the possibility their blessing at the December 2008 EU summit (EURACTIV 03/12/09).

In a letter sent on 30 November, French Prime Minister François Fillon asked Bernard Accoyer, president of the National Assembly, to designate the two new MEPs "as soon as possible" from the parliament's ranks.

To avoid partisan squabbling, the prime minister said one seat would be granted to the leading centre-right UMP party and one seat to the opposition socialist party.

However, French Greens and Communists rejected "this political masquerade" and refused to present their candidates for selection (EURACTIV France 08/01/10), delaying a vote in the French lower Huse until 13 January (EURACTIV France 11/01/10).

On a visit to Paris on 2 February, Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, urged France to find a solution "as soon as possible" and choose its two additional MEPs.

"We would like all member states to have the same rules," said Buzek, without giving more details (EURACTIV France 03/02/10).

Duff has already warned that the solution chosen by France could be challenged in the European Court of Justice because it fails to respect the principle that MEPs should be drawn from the electoral lists of the June 2009 European Parliament elections rather than being appointed by governments.

"Not everyone agrees with the last option [chosen by France]," said Polish MEP Rafa? Trzaskowski, vice-president of the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee. "MEPs are persuaded that everybody should have the same status and thus have been elected at European Parliament elections," he told EURACTIV.

According to the Lisbon Treaty, a convention of MEPs, representatives of national parliaments and governments should be drawn up to decide on the issue. "But some of us are more pragmatic and think that an intergovernemental conference could be sufficient to settle the issue," said Trzaskowski.

The decision on how to implement the treaty changes will be detailed in a report drafted by the constitutional affairs committee.

"[On Monday] we decided that the rapporteur will be a member of the EPP group, but no name is circulating yet," Trzaskowski added.

The Nice Treaty provides for 736 MEPs, while the Lisbon Treaty foresees a maximum of 751 MEPs (750 MEPs plus the Parliament president).

However, as agreed at the December 2008 EU summit, the number of MEPs will be increased to 754 until 2014 in order to keep 99 MEPs for Germany. After 2014, the number will fall to 96.

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty 1 December 2009, twelve EU member states have to decide how to choose their new 'Lisbon MEPs'.

  • Spain got four additional seats;
  • Austria, France and Sweden each got two seats, and;
  • Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and the UK received one additional MEP each.

But several counties such as France, UK and Italy did not decide before the European elections how the country's new seats would be allocated if the Lisbon Treaty were to be approved across the EU (EURACTIV 06/11/09).

At a summit in 2008, EU leaders agreed that additional MEPs could be either elected by "ad hoc elections," or by "reference to the results of the European elections from 4 to 7 June 2009," or " by designation by the national parliaments […] among [their] members".

EU leaders also envisaged that the 18 new MEPs would assume their full responsibilities "if possible during the year 2010".

(To see a provisional list of phantom MEPs drawn up by EURACTIV, please click here.)

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