Who gets Britain’s European Parliament seats after Brexit? That’s the question MEPs have been debating in Strasbourg this month, with one group of parliamentarians arguing that some of the soon-to-be-vacant seats should go to “pan-EU” politicians elected by all European citizens via transnational lists. The idea has the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron, who sees it as a way to strengthen European democracy by forcing these so-called “pan-EU” MEPs to campaign for election on issues relevant to Europeans everywhere, rather than focusing on narrow national interests. When it came to a vote, however, a narrow majority of MEPs rejected the proposal.
But what are transnational lists? As things currently stand, each EU citizen votes for political representatives from his or her own country in European Parliament elections. So, for example, in Germany candidates are put forward by German parties such as the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, etc. However, the proposed “transnational list” would be the same in every European state. In other words, it would allow voters throughout Europe to vote directly for common candidates put forward by the different European parties. So, for example, a German citizen could just as well vote for an MEP from France, Poland or Italy.
Supporters of the idea argue that it would make the EU more democratic and, above all, more “European”. MEPs would not be beholden to one country’s national interest, but rather to all Europeans. Could this lead to genuinely pan-European parties and election campaigns? Critics of the idea think that’s wildly optimistic. They argue that transnational MEPs would be unaccountable to any single electorate, weakening democracy rather than strengthening it.
Would “pan-EU” politicians be good for European democracy? Would they be a step towards a truly European demos? Or would they create transnational politicians unaccountable to a real electorate? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!