Daniel Freund

11. March 2022 Democracy

Breakthrough on EU electoral law: Transnational lists and voting age 16

Tuesday night MEPs of the four largest political groups in the European Parliament (EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens/EFA) agreed on a reform of the European electoral system. In the upcoming 2024 European elections, citizens shall be given a second vote for a single EU-wide constituency in which European parties and Spitzenkandidaten can be elected directly. On union-wide lists, candidates from at least 14 countries shall appear in order to fill 28 seats – in addition to the existing 705, which will continue to be elected in national or regional constituencies. The Spitzenkandidaten for the most important EU offices will appear on ballots throughout Europe. Christian Democrats insisted on an electoral threshold of 3.5 percent (de facto only effective for Germany) except for parties which run under the same name in at least seven EU countries  (e.g. Volt or the pirates). Gender equality will be achieved by means of quotas or zipped lists and the voting age will be lowered to 16 unless the respective member state regulates it differently.

Daniel Freund, member of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) comments:

“This agreement would make the upcoming 2024 election a real European election. For the first time, politicians would actually stand in an election throughout Europe and would have to explain their programs to voters from Lisbon to Warsaw: uniform European election programs instead of contradictory election promises from members of the same party family. Who becomes President of the EU-Commission will finally be decided by the citizens. This breakthrough must enter into force for the upcoming 2024 European elections. The 3.5 percent hurdle is the painful part of a compromise package and must only go into effect if the agreement on the transnational lists becomes a reality.”

What happens next?

The compromise will now be transferred into legal text and voted in the Constitutional Affairs Committee and then by the plenary of the European Parliament. Since an agreement has already been reached a majority is likely, but there is still the possibility of dissenting MEPs. Subsequently, the Council can amend the Parliament’s initiative proposal – this will be prepared in informal negotiations. The Parliament can then agree or disagree with the Council text. Finally, all member states must agree to the electoral law and transpose it into national legislation. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission recommends changing electoral laws only up until one year before the respective election – in this case this would mean May 2023. It is possible for the new electoral law to come into force by the 2024 European elections, but it requires the member states’ cooperation.

This agreement would make the upcoming 2024 election a real European election.


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