European Parliament

Electoral system

Current distribution of seats

The European parliament is the parliamentary body of the European Union. The European parliament is directly elected by EU citizens every five years. Today (2011), it comprises 754 representatives (up from 734 in 2009) from the 27 member countries. The allocation of the seats is based primarily, but not entirely (see below), on population size of the member states.

Lisbon Treaty

The rules are due to be changed under the Treaty of Lisbon. Under Lisbon, there will be 750 members (751, including the president of the parliament. However, the president will no longer be counted as a lawmaker in order to preserve the 750 overall ceiling of MEPs). The new treaty also introduces an EU President, a post that can be held for up to five years. It also strengthens the post of its foreign policy chief and takes away national vetoes in areas such as terrorism. In addition, the overall aim of the treaty is to give more power to the European Parliament.

Degressive proportionality

Under the Lisbon Treaty the maximum number of seats allocated to a state will be lowered to 96, from the current 99, and the minimum number of seats will be raised to six, from the current five. These seats are distributed according to "degressive proportionality", which means that bigger Member States agree to accept fewer seats than they would receive if the total were divided according to population size, so as to allow for better representation of less-densely populated states (referred to as the principle of 'European solidarity'). The concept of "degressive proportionality" also includes the principle of 'justified flexibility', allowing for the possibility of reducing existing discrepancies in representation among Member States as far as possible, and the principle of 'national representation', which guarantees each Member State enough seats to represent all major strands in the national political fabric.

Distribution of Seats in the European Parliament, 1979-2014

Sources

European Parliament, electoral procedures

European Parliament, European results

EUobserver: EU agrees new 'Lisbon Treaty'

European Parliament: Constitutional Affairs Committee approves proposal

European Parliament: MEPs by Member State and political group