A single European Parliament election with transnational lists could be just around the corner, as MEPs voted in favour of electoral reforms.
The reforms have had mixed reception so far as many praise them for strengthening Europeanisation and others bashing it for neglecting smaller member states and being too confusing for the average voter to understand.
What is a transnational list and how does it work?
A transnational list is an electoral list that holds the entirety of the EU as its constituency, rather than just a specific member state. If the reforms take place, transnational lists will co-exist with national constituencies.
Under the new rules, voters will be given two votes; one for the national constituency and one for the European constituency. The European transnational lists will comprise candidates from the European political groups and compete for 27 seats.
MEPs and Experts’ thoughts and opinions
Given the controversial nature of the reform and the numerous conflicting opinions, Lovin Malta has spoken to MEPs David Casa, Alfred Sant, Cyrus Engerer and Alex Agius Saliba, as well as former MEP candidate and Political Advisor to Antonio Tajani, Peter Agius.
Casa and Sant voted against the reforms, whilst Engerer and Saliba voted in favour. Peter Agius also expressed his opposition to and concerns about the reforms.
Casa pointed out that “Brussels is perceived as being far away from people, caught up in nebulous procedures”.
“If Europe is to continue winning people’s trust, I think it needs politicians who are closer to constituents and I have my doubts as to whether a Union-wide constituency is quite the way of going about that,” Casa said.
One of the concerns Casa put forward is that the plan will backfire and “broaden the gap between politicians and the electorate”, especially given that the European list of candidates will be decided behind closed doors and will be risking “further eroding trust”.
Casa also expressed his fears that the change in the electoral process would have adverse effects on Malta, which is the smallest member state.
“With a European list, bigger countries are set to gain the most. So it does not sit rights with me to vote for something that could potentially dilute Malta’s diplomatic influence and representation,” he said.
Peter Agius shared similar views with Casa. “This notion of ‘pan-European’ MEPs would introduce a dangerous two-tier membership in the European Parliament and cement the unfortunate impression by many citizens that European politics is detached from the territory it is meant to represent,” he said.
Agius also mentioned that the approach taken by the European Parliament on such legislation is taken in a “one size fits all” approach and that “Malta needs to fight for more tailor-made solutions”.
In contrast, Labour’s MEPs all took very different approaches and stances towards the vote. Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant voted against the reforms, Josianne Cutajar voted in favour and against certain parts of the reforms and Saliba and Engerer voted in favour.
Alfred Sant said that the proposals presented by the Parliament were done so in “a typical instance of a rush, perhaps well-intentioned, to mend things when they are not broken”.
Josianne Cutajar “voted in favour of parts of the text relating to the transnational lists proposals”, as well as other proposals which called for better “measures ensuring better gender representation and access for persons with disability, among others”.
However, Cutajar voted against parts of the text that she believes “require further discussion and analysis in consultation with the local authorities and which do not adequately take into account the various electoral procedures, traditions and laws at the national level”.
An example of this, Cutajar pointed out, is the call for a common election date for European elections. The date which is being discussed is 9th May, which is Europe Day.
“I believe that the report is going overboard in certain parts of the text. One such example is the call for the first official projections to be announced simultaneously in all Member States on election day at 9pm,” Cutajar said.
She pointed out that this is not practical in Malta’s case as voting goes on until 10pm and ballot boxes have to be transported to a counting hall.
Cyrus Engerer and Alex Agius Saliba, on the other hand, supported the reforms.
Engerer described the move as “a step in the right direction to bring Europe closer to citizens, allow people to choose Europe’s political direction and in line with what citizens have asked during the Conference on the Future of Europe”.
“It is time for citizens to choose themselves what political direction they want the European Union to take,” said Engerer.
He also believes that the reforms, which will allow citizens to have more say in who runs the Commission, will give it “more legitimacy, reduce its democratic deficit and give citizens the ability to scrutinise the Commission directly”.
“My hope is to have the European institutions change and become closer to citizens. With the law approved by the European Parliament this can start being achieved,” Engerer said.
Much like Cutajar, Engerer expressed concern about the common election date, explaining that different EU countries have different times and days of the week which they are used to voting on. However, he admitted he is not opposed to the idea of making 9th May a Europe-wide public holiday to increase voter turnout.
Agius Saliba said that “I voted in favour since I believe that the system proposed is very fair with smaller Member States and ultimately it can lead to an added seat for Malta in the European Parliament”.
“I still voted down certain parts of the proposal such as those dealing with a fixed date to hold these elections and the proposal to do away with unanimity voting at Council Level to adopt these electoral changes,” Agius Saliba said.
Despite the ambitiousness of the proposal and the support it received, he still believes that it will receive “a lot of resistance will be found at Council level from member states who are still sceptical with the very concept of transnational lists”.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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