DThe European Parliament’s change in electoral law for the European elections has met with great resistance from the member states. In a first debate on Tuesday, all states objected to individual points intended to standardize voting.
The substantive core of the reform – transnational lists on which the top candidates of the parties across Europe are to compete – was rejected by ten states, including those open to greater EU integration. A change can only be made unanimously.
The Europe Ministers agreed that any reform would require further analysis and more time. This makes it almost impossible for the electoral law to be changed before the next European elections in May 2024.
At the meeting in Luxembourg, the representatives of Germany and France were the only ones who unreservedly advocated the introduction of transnational lists. French President Emmanuel Macron developed this idea. It will lead to “Europeans feeling closer to Europe and the turnout to increase,” said European Affairs Minister Laurence Boone. However, this was rejected by Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary.
EU Parliament voted for electoral reform
Their representatives argued that voter retention was lower for candidates running across Europe. They also claimed that the proposal would change the institutional balance in the EU. The Dutch representative, for example, said that the election of the Commission President should not be automatic: “The European Council must continue to be able to nominate a non-top candidate.”
Almost all member states spoke out against holding the European elections uniformly on Europe Day, 9 May. They referred to their national traditions, which often call for voting on Sundays. A change would further reduce the already low voter turnout, it said. Other innovations have also met with significant criticism: the lowering of the active voting age from 18 to 16, the option to vote by post, and regulations on nominating candidates.
Several ministers recalled that an amendment to the EU election act had already been agreed in 2018, but that this had not been ratified in all member states. In Germany, the Greens prevented this through the Bundesrat. This reform would have enabled the introduction of a threshold clause in Germany. The new initiative would set it at 3.5 percent.
The EU Parliament had decided to change the electoral law in May with a narrow majority. Exceptionally, it has the right of initiative on this issue, but cannot push through reforms without the consent of all states.