In the run-up to the European Parliament elections in 2014, starting as early as 2009, the European Movement International advocated for transnational lists, ‘spitzenkandidaten’, European-wide election manifestos, vote at 16, and generally, making the European democratic process more participatory. Shortly after the 2014 elections these calls were combined in a comprehensive Policy Position on European Political Parties and electoral reform. All calls and adopted positions were followed by various advocacy actions towards the European Parliament, and are being renewed with a look towards the 2019 elections.
Article 223 (1) in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union gives only the European Parliament the right to initiate a reform of European electoral law. However, for any reform of the law currently in place, the 1976 Direct Elections Act, unanimity in the Council of the European Union is needed, which means that all Member States have to agree on the reform. Furthermore, the reform also needs consent by the European Parliament and approval by Member States according to their national constitutional requirements.
Reform of the electoral law of the EU
275 votes required to pass.
The Legislative Initiative resolution on the reform of the electoral law of the European Union was voted on 11 November 2015 and passed with 315 votes in favour. Responsible co-rapporteurs were Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL) and Jo Leinen (S&D, GE).
The European elections in 2014 saw the first experiment with ‘spitzenkandidaten’ or lead candidates from the European political parties. The European Parliament and the European Commission encouraged the nomination of candidates for the post of President of the European Commission by the European political parties, and subsequently the nomination of the candidate of the winning party as President-elect of the European Commission.
Following the start of the new legislature, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs started in 2015 with a new own-initiative report on Electoral Reform for more transparent and more 'European' elections. Co-rapporteurs Danuta Hübner (EPP, Poland) and Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany) led the new effort to amend the electoral act, which was already (unsuccessfully) attempted with the 2011 own-initiative report from rapporteur Andrew Duff (ALDE, United Kingdom).
The proposal for a transnational list, which would be a second list to existing national lists and have candidates compete for European seats in the European Parliament, was discussed both in the context of the Leinen/Hübner and the Verhofstadt reports, but was not included in either report because no majority could be found on this particular issue.
Looking forward – to 2019!
What can be expected in terms of changes to the electoral procedures?
With regard to the spitzenkandidaten, there is the assumption – but it is by no means sure – that 2019 will again feature lead candidates of European political parties. As everyone starts to consider its plans for the 2019 elections, the coming year will be crucial in preparing the way for another round of lead candidates and European-wide debates.
What to do to make the 2019 elections more European and participatory?
In order to make the 2019 elections more European and participatory, the focus should not be on changes to electoral acts, but on changes in the campaigns of the European political parties that can be implemented directly. This can include:
For more information on the European Movement Position on electoral reform, have a look at: