EU Electoral Reform: Member States’ Reluctance Exposed

Most member states are hesitant or opposed to some of the key proposals for reforming European Union electoral law, according to the results of a Swedish presidency survey seen by EURACTIV.

The reform of the EU electoral law, which has remained unchanged since the introduction of direct elections in 1979, was voted by the European Parliament in May 2022. The text adopted by the Parliament proposes the creation of transnational lists which would allow to elect 27 MEPs across the bloc, as well as giving EU citizens the opportunity to indicate their favorite candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.

Previous attempts to reform the electoral law, which defines the modalities of European Parliament elections, have been rejected by national governments who are wary of any attempt to “Europeanise” elections.

The inquiry, led by the Swedish government, whose rotating six-month Council presidency ended last week, was based on definitions or specific parts of the proposals, to which member states could respond that they were “ Acceptable”, “To be discussed”, “Not acceptable”, or that they had “No position yet” or “No answer” to provide on this subject.

The results were discussed by EU ministers at a meeting of the General Affairs Council at the end of June.

The document suggests that of all the proposed reforms, the strongest opposition concerns the possibility of allowing EU citizens to indicate their preferred candidate for the presidency of the European Commission. Only one country is in favour, five ask for further discussion and 14 are against.

With regard to the “common list for the whole of the Union”, only three countries are in favor, seven are asking for a more in-depth debate and eleven are against it.

On lowering the voting age, only seven countries were in favor of setting it at 16, seven others said they wanted to continue the discussion and ten were against.

The trend is the same with regard to the issue of lowering the minimum age for candidates to 18 years.

As regards postal voting, including for EU citizens living in third countries, only five Member States were in favor of this measure, six indicated that they wanted to explore the issue further and twelve are pronounced against.

The proposal to establish a common threshold that would require a party or candidate to obtain at least 5% of the national vote to win a seat received more support: 17 countries voted in favor of it.

The French proposal

In response to the investigation, the French government prepared a “consolidated version of the proposals”, a document also consulted by EURACTIV.

In it, the French authorities propose a compromise on the transnational lists which would have the consequence that the votes received by the lists of candidates registered in the national constituencies are used to elect MEPs in the EU-wide constituency. .

The French proposal does not specify the possibility for citizens to indicate their preference for the President of the European Commission.

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