An analysis of the European Parliament’s electoral arrangement(s). A uniform procedure for the elections to the European Parliament? (Christiaan Ziccardi)


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Being a citizen of both Belgium and Italy, European Parliament (EP) elections raise many questions in my situation. How and why can an Italian citizen vote in Belgium, or vice versa? Can he or she stand for election? And why is there a difference between a mandatory vote in Belgium and a voluntary vote in Italy? It is still the same election that is being dealt with, or is it not?


Art. 190 (4) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (ECT) states that “… the European Parliament shall draw up a proposal for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States”. The Treaty of Amsterdam, which was signed on 2 October 1997, added the possibility of common principles. Immediately, it should be pointed out that the terms ‘uniform procedure’ have always had a debatable content. [1] This being said, what can one conclude from these articles?

First of all, there is no uniform procedure for elections to the EP, and second, there seems to have been no progress made in achieving this, at least not before the Amsterdam Treaty. Why else would another option have been added to the ECT? This reasoning forms the basis for this research project. What happened to the intention of making a uniform procedure, and where does it stand today? Reasons for success and failure need to be uncovered if one wishes to fully grasp the wide spectrum of forces that were and are active in the EP and within Council on the issue of the electoral procedure. There is an apparent opposition between the powers of national parliaments to determine their own electoral systems and the organisation of elections and the evolution of powers of the EP. Art. 190 ECT states unequivocally that when it comes to the electoral procedure, the EP is dependent on a unanimous vote in Council.

The attraction of this research is obvious. If answers to the questions raised can be found, it will become clear why progress of the EU on certain political issues can become so difficult and entangled in decades of political manoeuvring, while at the same time a significant piece may be added to the literature surrounding the problem of the EP’s electoral procedure.


The research for this paper is based on two groups of sources. On the one hand, there is the academic literature, on the other, there is the important stack of official documents produced by the EU institutions. [2] Reports and debates of the EP will prove to be of utmost importance to find out ‘what really happened’? Important conclusions and answers are drawn from an analysis of opinions and quotes found in the documents and the literature that will be explained inter alia via the minimalist maximalist position in thinking on EU evolution. [3] The systematic comparison of these sources and the political positioning of all parties concerned with the addition of our own arguments guide this process. Of course, on the one hand, it is virtually impossible to fully understand the wide range of reasoning behind the events, especially since the debating inside Council at its different levels, as well as certain mind settings inside the EP are just not open to the public eye. On the other hand, none of these considerations should limit or negatively affect the research and analysis efforts undertaken.



Chapter 1: Historical analysis: where did it go wrong?


A) The period leading up to the first European Parliament’s elections (1958 – 1979)


Old art. 138 ECT deals with two things: direct elections and a uniform procedure for holding them. [4] Mr. Dehousse, a Belgian socialist, was appointed by the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) as chairman of the Working Party that needed to develop a proposal to implement this article. On 17 May 1960 the EP submitted a draft Convention on the direct election of the EP.

Art. 9 of this draft hinted to the problems ahead, as it referred to a procedure ‘as uniform as possible’. Furthermore, it stated that details of such a procedure should initially be settled at the national level, thus allowing for a non uniform system during a transitional period. Council didn’t act on the draft for many years to come. [5] Direct elections themselves had become a major stumbling block.


After Mr. Dehousse left as rapporteur for the PAC, Mr. Lautenschlager took his place in 1971. He concluded that there was a need to adapt – partly because of its failure – the 1960 draft to the changed circumstances.  A new report had to be drawn up and after Lautenschlager left, it was for Mr. Patijn, a Dutch social-democrat, to take up this task (Report doc. 368/74). [6]  In the new draft Convention, presented under Mr. Patijn’s chairmanship, on the election of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) by direct universal suffrage (1975), two major differences with the previous draft can be spotted. Firstly, there is again mention made of the uniform procedure. Secondly, there is no longer a provision for a transitional period.

In the meantime, Council decided, already at the Paris Summit of 1974, to put the dossier back on the negotiating table and asked the EP to come up with a new proposal. By that time, the EP had practically finished its work on the new draft Convention (Burban, 1979, p 16; Anastassopoulos, 2002, p. 30). The political movement that was asking for direct elections gathered momentum and this led to the Brussels Act of 1976. However, this Act concerned only direct elections, a uniform procedure proved impossible to reach. Art. 7 of the draft stipulated that the elections should be organised by national arrangements until a uniform procedure would be put in place, and there was no mention made of any timetable for that to happen. On other issues the Act followed Patijn’s draft Convention quite closely (Millar, 1990, p 38; Corbett et al., 2003, p. 12). Eventually, direct elections were to take place in 1979.



B) What happened from 1979 until now?


After the first EP elections, a sub – committee of the PAC started dealing with the issue. Mr. Seitlinger, a Frenchman, was the rapporteur. After the socialists Dehousse and Patijn, it was now up to a Christian-democrat to find a way out. The report containing a draft proposal was adopted 28 January 1982. In the draft – in contrast with the past ones – one was now confronted with the first real attempt at the development of a uniform procedure.

Proportional representation was proposed and Member States needed to divide their territories in constituencies (art. 2). A fixed two day period for voting was set (art. 7). In his report, Mr. Seitlinger made it clear that only certain things could be harmonized and that a general electoral procedure would encompass many more aspects. The EP adopted a resolution submitting the draft to Council (10 March 1982). Once again, unanimity was still not possible in Council. On the one hand, Council had amongst its members powerful opposing forces. On the other hand, there certainly was the problem of the British representation itself that had become a major source of disagreement between MEP’s (Millar, 1996, p. 40 – 41; Anastassopoulos, 2002, p. 43). This problem was created by the British electoral system. Brew describes this ‘first-past-the-post’ system as follows: “The country is divided in single-member constituencies. In each constituency, the voter is presented with a ballot paper bearing the names of a number of individual candidates, mostly supported by a given party, and indicates with a cross his preference for one or other candidate. The preferences are added up and the one with the highest number wins the seat” (1981, p. 59). The effect of this system was that a small part of the UK electorate could decide on a switch in majority in the EP from the left to the centre – right, or vice versa. [7] The resulting disagreements and quarrels amongst MEP’s continued and did no good to the EP’s image. The momentum gained was lost.


It its second term (1984 – 1989) the EP undertook a new effort. On 17 September 1984, the PAC decided to start drawing up yet another report on the issue. Bocklet, a German Christian-democrat, was appointed as rapporteur. Art. 4 of the proposed Act in the report did away with the division of a national territory into more than one constituency, which had been a part of the Seitlinger draft. Apart from this nothing much changed, although the general impression of the proposal was that it was less rigid and that it allowed more freedom for national legislators. The report was adopted with 16 votes to 8 and 13 abstentions. This, by itself, was proof of the fact that much trouble was ahead and so the proposal was referred to a working party. Disagreements persisted and the second EP failed to adopt any text at all (De Vries, 1996, p. 419; Westlake, 1994, p. 81; Reif, 1984, p. 241). The Bocklet proposal was dead.


During the EP’s third term (1989 – 1994), the issue of drawing up a uniform procedure was in the hands of the Committee on Institutional Affairs (IAC). Mr. Karel de Gucht, a liberal, was rapporteur. An ‘interim’ resolution was adopted on 10 October 1990, the definitive version on 10 March 1993. The proposal was more concerned with facilitating adoption than sticking to some core values of the past proposals and certainly the concept of a uniform procedure itself. All flexible arrangements of the Bocklet proposal were maintained. These common principles rather than a uniform procedure were justified by the principle of subsidiarity (Westlake, 1994, p. 81). [8]

In our opinion, this text represents the loosest interpretation of the words ‘uniform procedure’ that we have ever have seen so far developed throughout the reports and resolutions. [9] However, some more perspective is needed. With the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union (1 November 1993), one can see that art. 8 stipulated that all EU citizens residing permanently in a Member State have the right to vote and to stand for election under the same conditions as nationals of that Member State residing there. This was a major step forward for that part of the electoral procedure. Because the issue had already been taken care of by the Maastricht Treaty, the De Gucht proposal did not need to contain provisions on it anymore. In the end, Council, as expected, wasn’t able to reach unanimity.


The year 1997 proved to be a very positive one for the EP electoral procedure. In Britain, Labour defeated the Conservatives in the general election. Thanks to a pre-election agreement between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, the door was now open to install a proportional electoral system in the UK for elections to the EP. Consequently, the biggest obstacle on the path to a uniform procedure was eliminated as it became clear now that all EU Member States were about to use a system of proportional representation in the upcoming 1999 EP elections. Furthermore, there was also the agreement on the provision of an alternative possibility to the uniform procedure. The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced the possibility of drawing up a proposal for elections in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States. [10] These two events changed the landscape completely and a solution looked within reach.

In 1997, Anastassopoulos, a Greek Christian-democrat, had been appointed as rapporteur of the IAC and his report took advantage of the new possibilities. Proportional representation was to be used in all Member States. Also, the incompatibility between an MEP and a member of a national parliament had to be fixed. However, this is where uniformity in the proposal ended. Practically all other aspects of a uniform electoral procedure, such as the electoral threshold (a minimum proportion of votes below which it is impossible for a party to secure any representation) or preferential voting (allowing the voter to change the order of candidates on a list), were either suggested and left optional to Member States to implement or simply not discussed at all. [11] The draft Act proposed became the subject of lengthy discussions in Council and consequently, Council did away with some of the provisions such as the obligation for Member States to divide their territory into more than one constituency if its population exceeded 20 million. The IAC appointed José Maria Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado (EPP) as its rapporteur in 2002. The following draft resolution gave its assent to Council’s proposed amendment of the Act (12/6/2002), thus clearing the way for the definitive Council decision amending the Act of 1976. A uniform procedure, or should one say ‘a procedure based upon common principles’ had become reality. After 44 years, one might suggest that it was about time.



C) Conclusion


It took the EU more than forty years to implement the provisions of art. 190 ECT. This happened over two time periods. The first one, from 1958 to the first EP elections in 1979, was a period in which most of the efforts undertaken were mainly concerned with the bringing about of direct elections to the EP. In these efforts, the uniform procedure was only a topic of a second order. Most politicians decided that there was still plenty of time to bring about the uniform procedure after the first concern, i.e. direct elections, would have been addressed. In the second period, from 1979 until Council Act of 2002, the EP embarked on a mission to achieve a uniform electoral procedure, not hindered anymore by the issue of direct elections but strengthened by its newly acquired legitimacy. At the end of the journey, elections are now being held not through a uniform procedure but in accordance with principles common to all Member States, a rather peculiar development, to say the least.



Chapter 2: An analysis of the political and legal aspects involved


Direct elections had proven very difficult to achieve. The electoral procedure for them proved to be an even more difficult undertaking. One can imagine that forty years of EP and Council proceedings and academic writing produced a vast amount of information that simply needs to be analyzed. What were the reasons and arguments that provoked so many emotions? Is it in fact the case, as in so many fields of European Union competences, that reasons of national sovereignty and national politics are being used to oppose arguments in favour of EU integration, or is there more to it? [12]



A) How does one account for forty years of standstill?


The period leading up to the first European Parliament’s elections (1985-1979)


In his report, containing the 1960 draft Convention [13], Mr. Dehousse made it clear that a lot of reasons made the Working Party, which had been set up by the PAC, postpone the development of a uniform procedure until the end of the so-called ‘transitional period’ [14] (p. 27). Schuijt, a Dutch Christian-democrat, pointed out that every electoral system has its influence on the composition of the parliament and on the political parties themselves (p. 57).

At that time, one could discern three different electoral systems: a majoritarian (France), a proportional (Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and Luxemburg) and a mixed one (Germany). [15] The majority of politicians that were consulted by the Working Party said they supported the idea of a uniform electoral system but they admitted they would only agree with one if it followed more or less their own national system. This is probably the most important factor explaining the absence of such uniform electoral system in the draft. Electoral laws are created by historical events and reflect a certain philosophy on democracy and elections. Therefore they are very typical for countries. As the EP was only two years old and as its members were not directly elected yet, the political and psychological attitudes towards the EC project did indeed allow the Working Party to come up with such a finding. Furthermore, other aspects of a uniform procedure, other than the electoral system per se, such as the admission of extreme political parties to elections, could not be harmonised either. [16]

The debates were mainly about the question whether it was right to harmonise only some common principles (e.g. voting age) instead of working out a completely uniform procedure. MEP Van Dijk, a Christian-democrat, thought it was best if the existing possibilities were taken into account. A flexible mechanism would surely make further progress less difficult (p. 155). Nicara comments that there’s no point in dividing MEP’s in maximalists and minimalists, in good and bad Europeans, “the proposal demonstrates a sense of reality, a compromise between what is desirable and what is feasible” (p. 167). With especially French communists and Gaullists voting against and making their opinion heard, the difficulties ahead could easily have been predicted.

The political climate in Council in the early sixties was one of a deteriorating nature. De Gaulle’s political party, the R.P.R., was firmly opposed to any move that would increase the powers of the EC institutions. In this regard, direct elections too were believed to be detrimental to French national sovereignty, as a directly elected parliament would soon manage to increase its powers through its newly obtained legitimacy. Consequently, the Dehousse proposal was left untouched in Council for 15 years to come, due to the systematic opposition of de Gaulle and his successor Pompidou (Dehousse, 1969, p. 287; Burban & Ginestet, 1981, p. 7; 1979, p. 16; Dinan, 2004, p. 118; Reif, 1984, p. 233). [17]

Was that the only reason that held back direct elections to be held in accordance with some common electoral principles? Some argue that the unwillingness of the allied powers, especially France, to accept Germany as a partner and recognize its equal role in the political society of European nations, played its role as well (Anastassopoulos, 2002, p. 102: Burban, 1979, p. 19) This judgment is not questionable to the extent that the argument was indeed important for reasons of domestic French politics. However, there are historical circumstances that do suggest another scenario.

In our opinion, Germany’s fragile position in the international community was not a chief reason for the ruling top politicians, such as de Gaulle, for holding back direct elections. Certainly in the first post war years, there was serious doubt about whether Germany could be accepted as an honourable member of the international community. However, in the early 1950’s genuine reconciliation had been taking place. In 1951 Germany became member of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and in 1951 of the Western European Union (WEU). In 1955 it was made NATO member and the Saar problem with France was resolved as well. In addition, the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957. Furthermore, France (under Presidency of De Gaulle) and Germany (with Adenauer as Prime Minister) had successfully fought the British proposal of creating a European free trade area (EFTA). In 1961 Britain had applied to become part of the EC but De Gaulle firmly opposed this and rejected formally in January 1963. At the end of the same month, he signed the Elysée Treaty with Adenauer on Franco-German cooperation. De Gaulle wanted to tie Germany behind his vision of a strong Europe that could be equal to the Anglo-American axis. [18] In short, De Gaulle needed Germany, mainly to fend off Britain’s possible entry into the Communities. It is therefore doubtful that he opposed direct elections because of his reluctance towards accepting Germany as an equal partner. Related to this issue is the fact that German socialists themselves voted against the Dehousse proposal. Perhaps direct elections and a uniform procedure was in their eyes the recognition of the division of Germany, something that was to be avoided.


In a resolution adopted on 12 March 1969 the EP emphasized that the Council did not act upon the 1960 draft and invited Council to now do so, drawing Council’s attention to art. 232 ECT (old art. 175). [19] The EP had come to the conclusion it could threaten the Council with judicial action if it didn’t undertake action to reach a decision on the proposal for direct elections. This bold move put considerable pressure on the Council where a majority of the Member States began to feel increasingly nervous. When Giscard d’Estaing became French president in 1974, he remained faithful to his strong European feelings and removed France’s veto against direct elections. He was even in favour of a proportional electoral system. [20] Following this reversal of French policy, Council action was to take place during the Paris Summit of 1974. The EP was asked to present a new draft. The draft Convention on the election of members to the EP by direct universal suffrage was adopted on 14 January 1975 and formed the basis for the 1976 Act.

Contrary to expectations the Act did not propose a uniform electoral system but allowed Member States to fix the electoral system until a uniform procedure would come into force. Furthermore, it allowed the dual parliamentary mandate and a four day voting period. Also, the right to vote for citizens abroad was not included in the Act. To say the least, this was a meagre result. Why? On the one hand, because the draft proposed (art. 7) that by 1980 the EP and Council should agree on a uniform procedure, and on the other, because art. 9 of the draft stated that voting would take place on the same day, with an exception of holding it one day later or earlier than the fixed date.

If things looked positive after the removal of the French veto, how do we then account for progress being made only on the issue of direct elections but not on that of a uniform procedure?

In 1973 the United Kingdom and Denmark joined the EC. Reif duly points out they preferred a confederal – intergovernmental Community to a federal – supranational one (1984, p. 233). Our findings show that especially the UK would from now on oppose any movement on a uniform electoral procedure if it would encompass a proportional electoral system. Both Labour and Conservatives attached too much value to their model as it allowed governmental stability and eliminated political fragmentation by making it difficult for third parties (especially Liberals) to come to power. From the comments being made by e.g. the European Conservative Group during the debates it became clear that they would obstruct any attempt to impose a proportional system. [21] This, of course, drew reaction from Liberals such as Mr. Johnstone (p. 118) who was very disappointed to here some of these remarks being made. However, rapporteur Patijn thought a speedy decision on direct elections to be of vital importance. Consequently, he exercised restraint on the issue of a uniform procedure. This mindset was caused by a tour des capitaux which he had undertaken earlier on. “Almost everyone I spoke to recommended that we should first organise direct elections on the basis of national rules and the rest would follow.” (p. 69). [22]

Another important issue was the dual mandate and the opposition of the Danish social-democrats to the draft Convention. They felt that the Patijn proposal made a dual mandate impossible in practice. In a few words, they did not think that MEP’s should be expressing different views from national parliamentarians (p. 123). This view was not supported by the other members of the Socialist Group. Our findings demonstrate that the Danish Social Democrats have been a ruling party in Denmark from the 1950’s onwards until 1982. Coincidentally, they were in opposition only for a brief period between 1973 and 1975. They had nothing to lose politically, since there was a vast amount of electorate in Denmark that shared this sceptical view on supranational developments in the EC (Nugent, 2004, pp. 140 – 142). At the end of the day, already in the EP and Council, there had not been a really intense opposition to the dual mandate and most were willing to go along with the Danish request for allowing it. This resigned attitude was caused by the fact that at that time the EP, as it was to acquire legitimacy and power, needed the presence amongst its members of some important leaders. These wouldn’t have renounced to their national mandates to become or stay an MEP (Chiti – Batelli, 1981, p. 310). These reasons explain why a deal on the dual mandate was easily reached.


Before national electoral arrangements in all of the nine Member States were in place for the first EP elections, a major event unfolded in France. Burban & Ginestet demonstrate that the French communists and Gaullists (most of them) were opposed to direct elections for the EP and tried everything they could to obstruct them (1981, pp. 11 – 31). The resulting legal battle ended with a Conseil Constitutionnel decision about the accordance of France’s commitment to direct elections with the French Constitution. This was a smart move, since the French National Assembly had not ratified the Act yet and as a consequence it could not be considered part of French law. The decision of 30 December 1976 [23] ruled in favour of direct elections but added that the way these should be organised should be in respect of the indivisibility of the French Republic. Gaullists and communists alike interpreted the decision very narrowly as forbidding the division of France into regional electoral constituencies. However, some authors point out that when the Conseil Constitutionnel talked about indivisibility it referred merely to the drawing up of trans-national electoral constituencies. [24] The result of this controversy was a big political compromise for France’s electoral arrangements for the EP elections. On the one hand, France installed a proportional system (because leftists and centrists were in favour). On the other hand, it used its territory as one single constituency (as Gaullists and communists wished) (Burban, 1979, p. 35). [25] In our opinion, this decision of the Conseil Constitutionnel emboldened many French MEP’s and French governments in their opposition against any proposals on a uniform procedure that tried to install more than one (regional) constituency in France.


The first direct elections for the EP took place in 1979. In reality, these were not ‘European’ elections but national elections held to elect MEP’s. The fact that they should have been but were not held in accordance with a uniform procedure (art. 190 ECT, old art. 138), was something that was hard to digest for most of the ‘supranationalist’ Europeans. According to van den Berghe, only the duration of the mandate, the prohibition of double voting and scrutiny arrangements were standardized elements (1981, p. 223). On the other hand, as our research clearly demonstrates, it could not have been any different. [26] There were simply too many obstacles of a historical - political nature. The more fundamental views and philosophies on democratic elections that were added to the mix simply made things impossible. Thanks to the ‘minimalist’ positions of most MEP’s at least direct elections were made possible. Their hope was that the newly elected Parliament would succeed in bringing about a uniform procedure, once it had acquired direct, i.e. true legitimacy.


Towards an electoral procedure for the elections to the European Parliament


One year after the first elections to the EP, the PAC had been authorized to draw up a report on a uniform electoral procedure. On 28 January 1982 it adopted the draft contained in the Seitlinger report by a clear majority. [27] On 10 March 1982 a resolution on a draft uniform electoral procedure was adopted. The basic set up was the notion that the electoral system, the right to vote and the right to stand for election, the procedure to fill in vacant seats and a fixed day of election could be harmonised. Obviously, as rapporteur Mr. Seitlinger duly pointed out, there are many more aspects to an electoral procedure (Seitlinger, EP document 1 – 988/81/A, p. 6). The draft proposed to adopt a multi-member constituency system within which members are elected by proportional representation on the basis of regional or national lists. Furthermore, Members States were allowed to install an electoral threshold and Member States must allow their nationals living in another Member State the right to vote. Preferential voting [28] was allowed and voting was to occur between Sunday morning and Monday evening.

Communists, European Progressive Democrats and liberal parties were mostly divided on the issue and many abstained. [29] Almost all British Conservative and Labour politicians voted against. [30] If other Member States would only be able to agree on such a limited number of aspects of a uniform electoral system, then why would Britain give up on its traditional ‘first-past-the-post’ system? Thatcher’s (UK Prime Minister) obstinacy with regard to giving the EC more supranational characteristics was well known (Dinan, 2004) and her party members made this clear in their voting. As some suggest, she wanted to prevent pressure from the Liberal-Democrats and the Social-Democrats in the UK for changing the electoral system in the UK itself. A proportional EP election would create a serious precedent in favour of such a movement (Reif, 1984, p. 242). Supporting evidence is the fact that Labour and Liberal-Democrats had already attempted to change the system for elections to the EP in 1976 but failed when the British House of Commons voted against their Bill introducing proportional representation (Westlake, 1994, p. 76).

However, the EP succeeded for the first time in adopting a draft Act that actually involved a proportional electoral system. This was in itself a worthy achievement. The result in Council was negative. Nothing else could have been expected. Council had amongst its members powerful opposing forces but certainly it was the problem of the British representation itself that had become a major source of disagreement between MEP’s themselves (Millar, 1996, p. 40 – 41; Anastassopoulos, 2002, p. 43). [31] Thatcher fought successfully against any proposal that entailed proportionality. The right to vote and the right to be elected irrespective of the place of residence proved to be a major stumbling block as well (Grunert, 1990, p. 495). This last reason for Council failure to act is however not that important. Historical analysis shows us that about ten years later agreement on this issue was in fact possible, as the Maastricht Treaty solved this problem. Therefore we argue that it was the proportionality question that formed the chief reason for Council failure, making it impossible or even unnecessary to reach compromise on the voting rights issue.


The EP decided not to give up on the idea of uniform procedure. The Bocklet report of 1985, containing a motion for resolution, was adopted by 16 votes to 8 with 13 abstentions. This was too thin a majority. In fact, the EP made it quite easy for Council this time. For the first time ever since workings on the uniform procedure had begun in 1960, the EP didn’t reach the point where it could adopt a resolution asking Council to adopt its draft. Therefore, Council wasn’t forced to consider any new proposal (Corbett et al., 2003, p. 23). In short, the EP had this time not become a victim of Member State unwillingness in Council but of its own internal political differences and obstructing political circumstances. The draft Act provided for a voting age standard, a right to vote for nationals living abroad in another Member State and a right to stand for election in the country of residence (art. 2 and 3). Furthermore, the draft encompassed the same provisions for the electoral system as the Seitlinger draft did in 1983, with the important difference that it now did not expect countries to actually divide their territory into constituencies, thus allowing e.g. France to retain its single nationwide constituency. As regards the timing of elections, it allowed elections to go ahead during a four day period, which in turn represented a looser arrangement compared to the 1983 draft. However, the proposals became the subject of intense and very divisive debating and the EP was not able to adopt a resolution (Westlake, 1994, p. 81).

This was probably the darkest period the EP had ever gone through in relation to the issue of the uniform procedure. Once again, mainly Gaullists and British Conservatives but also Labour politicians criticised the Bocklet and subsequent Working Party proposals. Not one proposal made it to a vote in the plenary because the issue was simply too controversial. [32] Between and even within the European Parliamentary Groups there were divisions on the issue (Bardi, 1990, pp. 500 – 501). In our opinion, the documents show that – because of the constantly deteriorating situation – MEP’s started to disagree on almost all elements of a possible uniform procedure. As a result, ten years passed by without parliamentary progress being made on the issue. The period between the Dehousse proposal and the Patijn report comes to mind.


After the 1989 elections, still with no uniform procedure to govern them, a new effort was on its way. On 29 May 1991 an interim report was published by IAC’s rapporteur Mr. De Gucht. Being a liberal, he had major interest in bringing about a uniform proportional electoral system, as it was the Liberal Group in the EP which suffered most from the British ‘first-past-the-post’ system. [33] The report clearly indicates the step-by-step approach that had to be taken. However, the meaning of a uniform procedure slipped away as De Gucht pointed out that only the main elements of the electoral procedure would have to be harmonised. Agreement on the nature of constituencies was not possible and neither was a right to vote in the place of residence (Bourlanges, EPP; Prag, ED). [34] Hoon, a Labour MEP, recognized the difficulties in finding a compromise electoral system that all twelve Member States would approve. Unfortunately, as he put it, the De Gucht report allowed some countries to continue with their existing system, whilst others would have to change. This, by itself, would not form a satisfactory basis for a compromise. Adding to this, opposition was caused not only by the ‘usual’ parties but also by e.g. the Flemish nationalists of Volksunie and Vlaams Blok who made it absolutely clear that non integrated residents e.g. around Brussels could not be allowed the right to vote and that therefore the right to vote and to stand for election should be left to the discretion of the Member States. Jensen, a Danish social-democrat, applauded the banning of the double mandate. His party decided to ban it themselves and in doing so broke with their past policies. [35] At the end of the day, a resolution would be adopted.

However, this was only an interim resolution, the definitive one being adopted on 10 March 1993. [36] Proportionality and the right to vote in the place of residence were made obligatory. An exception was made for countries that used the single member constituency system. They were allowed to elect a maximum of two-thirds of seats according to their ‘first-past-the-post’ system.  By itself, this was a major step to try to win over the British MEP’s and certainly their government. Mr. De Gucht himself emphasised that the proposal was primarily addressed to British politicians. [37] However, proportionality and the right to vote were the only provisions that were to be uniform. On other issues, such as double mandates, electoral thresholds or the division of territories into constituencies no harmonisation was required by the resolution. Most of the MEP’s felt that truly proportional democratic elections should not impose any thresholds (e.g. Penders, EPP; Roumeliotis, PES; Capucho, ELDR; Boissière, G; Ewing, ERA). Ford, a Labour MEP, courageously stepped forward and stated that his delegation would have a free vote. He admitted to have been convinced of the necessity of a uniform procedure. In this comment one can already sense the internal UK debate that had been going on for many years on the divisive issue of proportionality (Westlake, 1994, p. 82; Bogdanor, 1987, p. 117). Was there a glimpse of hope that the UK would one day come to terms with a proportional electoral system for EP election?

In the end, we recognise that, although the discussion was still about a uniform procedure, in reality there was not much uniformity proposed at all. Perhaps common criteria would be a better way to describe what Mr. De Gucht tried to obtain. What followed was, regrettably, Council inaction. [38]


1997 would prove to be a decisive year. In the UK, after almost two decades of Conservative rule, Labour came to power. They would keep their promise made in a pre-election agreement with the Liberal-Democrats that they would install proportional representation for EP elections (Anastassopoulos, 2002, p. 58). In addition, agreement was reached on the Amsterdam Treaty which would add the possibility of common principles to that of a uniform procedure in the new art. 190 ECT.

On June 2 of 1998 Mr. Anastassopoulos tabled a new report on a proposal for an electoral procedure. This time there was no mention of a uniform procedure but simply of a procedure incorporating common principles, thereby immediately exploiting the new flexibility that the Amsterdam Treaty had installed. The motion for resolution was adopted with 26 votes to 3 with 3 abstentions.

Interesting is the draft Act comprised in the report which provided for ten per cent of the total number of seats to be filled as of 2009 by means of a list in a single constituency comprising the whole territory of the EU (art. 7). However, this was made subject to Council’s unanimous decision. Generally, this kind of provision tends to make things rather difficult. Forty years of Council inaction inevitably lead to such a conclusion. Furthermore, by making constituencies mandatory for countries with more than twenty million inhabitants, Mr. Anastassopoulos was to encounter problems with French but especially Spanish representatives in Council. They did not like the idea of Spain having to adopt regional lists because that might encourage and create a precedent in favour of separatist movements, mainly in the Basque region. A Spanish MEP applauded this freedom that Member States continued to enjoy under the pretext of the principle of subsidiarity. [39] In the debates on the De Gucht resolution, Fayot, a French socialist, had equally done so. [40] Nugent argues that in many cases this principle is understood as meaning that whenever possible things should be decided at the national, regional or even local level (Nugent, 2003, p. 64) In this case, this seems to be correct. Using the principle of subsidiarity on the issue of a uniform procedure seems nothing more than an evasive tactic to postpone or even delete an important part of a uniform procedure. Subsidiarity, in our opinion, is to be interpreted as a principle saying that competences must be handled by the most appropriate level. [41] The parallel between the EU and the national level is an obvious one. On the one hand, national legislators should develop the rules for national elections. On the other hand, if one accepts the partly supranational character of the EU constellation and certainly the European Parliament, it should be no more than logical that the EU level develops the rules for European elections.

Another MEP (Puerta, EUL/NGL) refers to the adverse effect such regional constituencies would have on medium sized political movements which are not nationalist parties. This argument certainly possesses some validity, especially in Spain. The Swedish Left Party voted against the proposal as it considered that national parliaments and constitutions are the only places where true democratic legitimacy is to be found (Sjöstedt, EUL/NGL). The proposal for trans-national lists also drew lots of attention. Many MEP’s thought that it was simply too far fetched and that public opinion did not ask for it (Spiers, PES; Corbett, PES; Cardona, UPE; Barros Moura, PES; Sjöstedt, EUL/NGL). One MEP referred to it as federalist folklore (Berthu, UEN). These viewpoints are indeed defendable. The European parliamentary system was not at all ready to engage in such an endeavour. There are no true European parties which would be needed to make such a system function, and other impediments, such as language barriers, do not raise the prospect of the establishment of such trans-national lists either.

The resolution took into account most of the MEP’s’ views. Basically, proportionality, constituencies for countries with more than twenty million inhabitants and incompatibility between the European and national parliamentary mandate needed to be installed. All other aspects of the electoral procedure were left to the discretion of each Member State. Indeed, there was no agreement on an electoral threshold, a voting day period, and Member States were allowed to decide on whether to allow preferential voting or not.


Council sent its common position to the EP in 2002. In itself this was a major revolution since it was the first time ever that Council was unanimous on a proposal to implement an electoral procedure based on common principles or on a uniform procedure. However, this was not due to the changed wording of art. 190 ECT. It was the result of the changed British position towards proportional representation, nothing more and nothing less. 

Rapporteur José Maria Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado prepared a recommendation on the Council’s common position. This position did not follow the Anastassopoulos draft on a few points. As comments of MEP’s already predicted, Council did not go along with the proposal of putting in place constituencies as of the 2004 elections in countries with a population of over twenty million (art. 2). Obviously, the French and Spanish delegations did not want this. All the other countries were simply not affected by such a proposal because of the arrangements they already had in place. Furthermore, the provision in the draft on a single European constituency by 2009 was also eliminated. All in all, one should not appear too negative about this Council’s position as it agreed on the most important two issues of the Anastassopoulos proposal, i.e. the prohibition of the dual mandate and the establishment of proportional electoral systems in all Member States.

The debates [42] proceeded smoothly as most political groups admitted that this draft meant the culmination of a long process and that it was worthwhile going along with it. Only a few gave rumour to their dissent. Pasqua (UEN) defended the old Gaullist viewpoint against the territorialisation of constituencies and the cynical stance that electoral laws will never create an artificial feeling of belonging to the EU. A British Conservative (Hannan) objected to any method being imposed by the EU as he did, not see the EP as a federal assembly but as a forum wherein the representatives of the European peoples could hold bureaucracy to account. Van den Berg (PES) deplored the absence of a fixed election day and regretted that elections would still have to be carried out throughout a four day period. In our opinion, a fixed election day could in fact create more sensibility towards the EU and the supranational aspects of it, as an EU citizen would see all EU citizens voting, not only those of his or her Member State. [43] Furthermore, the Greens opposed the draft out of fear that trans-national lists would lead to an erosion of political diversity as it would make it more difficult for smaller parties to obtain seats. Even more so if this was done in combination with an electoral threshold of e.g. five per cent.

At the end of the day, the EP decided to give its assent to the draft Council decision. On 25 June 2002 Council took its decision amending the Act concerning the election of Members of the European Parliament. For the first time ever, EU legislation would provide harmonised elements for elections to the EP.



B) Is there more to it? The legal aspects: much ado about nothing?


Numerous reasons for failure of the uniform procedure are already given (cf. supra). Without pretending to be exhaustive, these were of a historical, political and philosophical nature. Some doubt, however, persists. The issue, i.e. a concrete ECT stipulation (art. 190 ECT) which needed to be implemented, looked to be rather simple. Is it so logical then that more than four decades needed to pass before the EP and Council could reach agreement on what was not even the original but an adapted version of that stipulation?

The academic literature rightly searches for the apparent reasons for postponements, standstills and failures. Our research has joined and added to this effort. [44] Nevertheless, there remains a deeper and seemingly unanswered question. How was it possible that all these circumstances, mind-settings and political forces were allowed to thrive and control the proceedings for such a long time? In our opinion, the vague wording of art. 190 (old 138) ECT had something to do with this. The consequence of this was a debatable legal basis, which proved to be fertile ground for arguments pro and contra a uniform procedure.


In the run up to the Treaty of Rome, the Ministers did not pay attention to the question of uniformity, a wording used in a proposal by the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Martino. Direct elections had been the main topic of debate (van den Berghe, 1981, p. 11). Sadly enough, certain governments would use the uniformity requirement to postpone direct elections themselves (Burban & Ginestet, 1981, p. 6) (cf. supra).


Mr. Dehousse, in his 1960 report, stated that uniform procedure refers to an electoral law which is fundamentally the same in all Member States. [45] However, the Working Party that prepared the draft decided that uniform did not mean identical so that the Convention could stipulate uniform rules while maintaining certain differences between the national applicable laws. In addition, the Working Party thought it should not follow the letter of the law too strictly. According to Dehousse, political arguments needed in this case to prevail over arguments of literal interpretation. This meant that the Working Party – at least for a transitional period – chose to work out only a few common principles (p. 40). The Italian Christian-democrat Battista defended this by saying that the ECT did not state whether the uniform procedure should be in place right from the start (p. 85). He also mentioned that some were of the opinion that the uniform procedure could be obtained at once, whilst others, like him, realised that reality required to obtain it step-by-step (p. 100). Probst, however, still believed that uniform procedure meant a uniform way of choosing representatives, and that was not what the Dehousse Convention encompassed (p. 132). In an ironic approach, Le Hodey wondered if indeed uniformity and diversity had a different meaning. He added that Dehousse was legally wrong in his approach. Politically, however, he was right in taking a gradual approach (p. 156).

In the end, the draft Convention (art. 9) made mention of a procedure as uniform as possible. There was nothing wrong in having different opinions on the meaning of the term uniform. However, changing the wording was certainly regrettable.


In the Patijn report (1974), an even more minimalist approach had been taken. [46] A positive note was that the term uniform procedure was put back in the draft Act (art. 7), doing away with the dubious art. 9 of the Dehousse draft Convention. The rapporteur pointed out that a uniform procedure already existed, as elections were carried out in the Member States according to the same basic principles. Elections were equal, free, universal, direct and secret (p. 40). Patijn had the conviction that uniform should be interpreted flexibly. Furthermore, he stated that “the concept of uniformity will acquire a different value when further parallels have developed between the electoral procedures of the individual Member States” (p. 54), thus admitting that he believed art. 138 ECT had in fact a changeable content.

The Opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee, attached to the Patijn Report, was drafted by Lautenschlager. To escape from the impasse created by the requirement of a uniform procedure, he thought it was best to study whether the term uniform necessarily referred to an entire system. In his opinion, it referred to the basic principles (cf. supra) that were already in place (p. 71). This sounds more like adventurous word usage than legal analysis. If the ECT talks about a uniform procedure, it does not refer to a partly uniform part of a procedure. Outers (Belgium) talked about a legalistic tour de force (p. 99). D’Angelosante (Italy) made similar comments (p. 95 – 96). Consequently, Cifarelli (Italy) stated that D’Angelosante was theoretically correct but that his maximalist position did more harm than good (p. 102).

In short, the literal meaning of art. 138 ECT did not stop Dehousse and Patijn from interpreting it flexibly. Art. 138 ECT simply could not be interpreted in accordance with the original wording. “It needed to be seen as part of a dynamic treaty in a changing world.” (van den Berghe, 1981, p. 17).

In the next EP report, Seitlinger admitted that an electoral procedure encompassed more than could be harmonised in 1982. [47] To avoid unnecessary complications the decision was made to opt for the step-by-step approach. The ECT did not define what is meant by a uniform procedure, so Seitlinger referred back to the previous rapporteurs’ interpretations that uniform did not mean identical (p. 3). In contrast with previous occasions, the Legal Affairs Committee’s Opinion was not in accordance with the rapporteur’s viewpoint. Perhaps the reason for this was that the draftsman was Mr. D’Angelosante, a communist whose ‘maximalist’ thinking was already widely known (cf. supra). In short, he attacked all past Opinions and Reports and found the reasons of political feasibility that former rapporteurs or draftsmen mentioned indefensible. According to D’Angelosante, the ECT text of art. 138 did not provide legal basis for different opinions (p. 28). A uniform procedure which was not fully uniform was unacceptable and the view that it could be arrived at in several stages had no legal basis (p. 38).


The Opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee in relation to the subsequent Bocklet report developed a very interesting definition of a uniform electoral procedure. [48] “It is said to be uniform when, apart from the organisational flexibility needed for peripheral or highly specific matters, it ensures a substantial degree of similarity between the principal elements which make up the system” (p. 22). This definition tried to encompass all the different interpretations that had already been given to art. 138 ECT. It was a compromise aimed at reconciling minimalists and maximalists. Ironically, the Bocklet draft Act was the only one not to make it to a vote in the plenary.


Mr. De Gucht, who drafted the next report on the uniform procedure, was very realistic in his approach. [49] He adopted the most flexible approach ever to art. 138 ECT. At the same time, this meant that, legally, he found himself far removed from the content of the article. The Opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizen’s Rights acknowledged De Gucht’s stance and reaffirmed that the main priority was to achieve harmonisation of common criteria, starting with the issues on which there was possibility of consensus (p. 5). Roumeliotis, a Greek socialist, praised the rapporteur for the way in which he made room for arrangements that accommodated the political culture of each of the Member States. [50] Flexibility was suddenly being portrayed as a virtue, almost as if uniformity had become a dangerous and radical requirement posed by the ECT.


Anastassopoulos’ report was not that different from the previous one. It took advantage of the openings that were created by the Amsterdam Treaty and Labour’s victory in the UK’s general election (cf. supra). Neyts, a liberal MEP, appreciated the important moment this was in the history of the EP. She referred to the creative idea put forward in the previous De Gucht Report, namely that “a uniform system does not mean that the same electoral system has to be established in all Member States down to the last detail, but that all MEP’s should be elected on the basis of the same principles, that is to say chiefly in accordance with the principle of proportionality.” [51] First of all, the idea of common principles was an idea that had been mentioned since the drawing up of the first report (Dehousse) on the issue of a uniform procedure. Secondly, the context in which this statement was made was somewhat peculiar. MEP’s such as Neyts, knew that common principles were introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty. If they referred to the common principles of De Gucht, perhaps they acknowledged that proposals such as that of De Gucht were in fact trying to introduce an electoral system that was not in accordance with art. 138 ECT. After all, this article had required a uniform procedure and not a procedure in accordance with common principles.


All of the abovementioned arguments demonstrate not the wrongness or correctness of the divergent views. Treaty articles such as art. 138 ECT will always be open to legal debate. Previous paragraphs demonstrate the legal quarrelling which took place during the past four decades. The consequence of it was the increasing irrelevance of the wording of art. 138 ECT. Although all involved knew what should have been the goal of the article, most did not care anymore as the article was constantly interpreted according to the situation at hand.

As a consequence of this, one might suggest that the Amsterdam Treaty change, adding common principles, was in fact not necessary. Proposals ever since the first one in 1960 had tried to work out common principles, much to the dislike of the more ‘maximalist’ interpretation of the article.  However, if proposals based on art. 138 ECT were practically all focused on a few basic principles that could be harmonised, then why did common principles had to be added, thus creating the new art. 190 ECT. What becomes certain then is that the Amsterdam Treaty merely adjusted the ECT to the situation on the ground. In doing so, it put an end to the legal quarrelling of the past four decades and provided a non debatable legal basis for further action. Perhaps, at the same time, the change itself acknowledged that the ‘maximalist’ interpretation of art. 138 ECT had been the correct one.

A similar comment can be made on the 2002 Council Act. EP elections had been organised on basis of common principles since 1999. With the exception of the double mandate, the Act did not do much more than acknowledging and legally fixing the state of national electoral arrangements. After 44 years, one could have expected more.



C) Conclusion


Certainly in the early days of drawing up proposals on a uniform procedure, the main proposition was that governments and their politicians would only agree to such a procedure if it followed their national electoral procedures. Of course, this was not the case.

Throughout the 1960s opposition to direct elections and a uniform procedure was mainly the work of French Gaullists and communists who opposed the supranational characteristics of the emerging Community and the prospect of having to adopt a proportional system of representation. Germany was fixated too much on its own problem of unification, hence its minor role in the run up to direct elections and the uniform procedure. After French President Giscard d’Estaing had reversed French policy everything seemed set for a uniform procedure. However, by then Denmark and the UK had joined the EC. Especially the UK would from then on oppose any move on a uniform procedure that obliged the country to adopt a system of proportional representation. Both Labour and Conservatives defended their ‘first-past-the-post’ system, regardless of who was in power in the UK government. This did not make things easier, as there was no prospect of the UK removing its veto in Council. After the first EP elections, the relative balance of power remained the same. Although most Member State governments and most political parties wanted to move forward on the question of a uniform procedure, some obstructed each move towards that end. Not to our surprise, these were the same political groups and governments that had done so already before 1979. Of course, sometimes smaller political factions such as the green parties or independent groups opposed proposals, whilst on other occasions suddenly a veto in Council appeared from a Member State such as Spain with regard to the proposal on regional constituencies.

What is important is the notion that all sorts of reasons were played out to oppose the uniform procedure. It is therefore that a deeper look had to be taken into the article 138 ECT. The wording of this article led to serious arguments about its content. Legally, all means were exploited to demonstrate one’s right or wrong. In a way, the debate on the meaning of a uniform procedure allowed the text itself to become irrelevant. Furthermore, it allowed postponements and the taking root of arguments opposed to a uniform procedure, or at least, its literal meaning.



General conclusions


Our research has tried to analyse the background of the EP’s electoral arrangements. Art. 138 ECT stated that these had to be conducted in accordance with a uniform procedure. However, in 2005 such a uniform procedure was still not in place. How does one explain this? Were it in fact political reasons related to national sovereignty that stood in the way? What has and what has not been achieved? These were the questions that laid at the basis of our research. If these questions could be solved, one could discover why the EU, at least sometimes, has so much difficulty in living up to the supranational standards that the Treaties impose. Furthermore, we could add to the literature which was, certainly in the past two decades, quite silent in this particular debate.


How was the research organised? First of all, there was a need to develop an historical analysis. It was clear that more than forty years of EP and Council deliberations, documents, and academic literature could not be understood without making a chronological analysis of the major events that stood in relation to the art. 138, and subsequent art. 190 ECT. As a result of this, one can immediately spot the basic procedural mechanisms of the EP and Council proceedings regarding the development of a uniform procedure. Secondly, the forces and circumstances that shaped developments in regard to the uniform procedure had to be uncovered. An analysis of all the aspects involved had to be made. Our findings indicated that things were not as obvious as they seemed. Therefore, a division was made between the political (also philosophical and historical) aspects, an effort that drew on lots of literature whilst adding to it, and the legal aspects involved, a more hidden issue in relation to forty years of political quarrels.

Historical analysis shows that the bringing about of a uniform procedure was initially hampered by the struggle to achieve direct elections. Most of the arguing and debating on the issue of a uniform procedure was caught up in the quarrels on that issue. This was logical as one could not have a uniform procedure without there being direct elections. After direct elections were put in place, many efforts to finally achieve a uniform procedure failed. Eventually, after the Amsterdam Treaty had changed art. 138 ECT and added the possibility of organising EP elections in accordance with principles common to all Member States, a Council Act of 2002 marked the end of a long and tiring effort. For the first time in history, EP elections could be carried out in accordance with common principles. However, at this point, the EP is still long away of having its elections in accordance with a uniform procedure.

In broad lines the reasons that held back direct elections were of political, historical and philosophical nature. Certain Member State governments, certain large or small political parties, certain political movements and the public in some Member States stood in the way of a uniform procedure. We need not repeat them by name.

In addition, our findings demonstrated that the legal aspects of a uniform procedure played their role as well. Every person that got involved in the proceedings concerning a uniform procedure took a stance on the legal aspects. Art. 138 ECT played a non supportive role as to the development of a uniform procedure. Its wording was used and abused to convince others of one’s opinion or to advance one’s own tactics in regard to the proceedings on a uniform procedure. The legalistic quarrelling obscured most of the proceedings and therefore had a great influence on the development of a procedure as such as it allowed other arguments and fights of more political nature to take root. In the end, the article itself had become irrelevant and was changed, probably without there being a necessity to do so.


The goal to have the EP elections organised in accordance with a uniform procedure, has not been realised, at least so far. New efforts are not underway and one can seriously doubt, after more than forty years of tiring proceedings, that one will be undertaken in the near future. Today, one is confronted with EP elections in accordance with common principles, i.e. a proportional electoral system, an 18 year age voting limit, the right to vote and stand for election of EU citizens wherever they reside in the EU and the prohibition of the dual mandate. All in all, it is a lot more than what was at hand forty years ago. One should not complain, although many more aspects of a uniform procedure are still arranged by the Member States themselves. What is more important is the conclusion that the two Council Acts did in fact not do much more than acknowledge the electoral arrangements that were already in place in all the Member States. Voting age and a proportional electoral system were not advanced or made mandatory by Council’s Acts. They were already in place following national events and changes. Certainly, one could argue this shows the very intergovernmental nature of the whole question of a uniform procedure, as decisions can only be taken when all Member States are in favour.

In all of this it was clear that the EP’s supranational forces did not succeed in using their power to bring about a uniform procedure. The political force that could be displayed by a Member State government in Council or through its party affiliates in the EP was simply too strong. This last comment, in a way, reflects a typical problem of the EU setup. Political parties who make up national governments are also active in the EP. At the end of the day, they are members of the same party and on most occasions they stand on the same line as their parties in the national governments, thus acting as a representative of their government and not as a representative of the peoples of the EU. As long as true European trans-national political parties will not emerge, this fact will continue to cause difficulties.

Apart from constantly putting pressure on national governments to move them towards a uniform procedure, it is safe to state that the EP did not succeed in doing much more than that. As a result of the veto embedded in art. 190 ECT a uniform procedure has not been brought about. Common principles, as a second option, are not to be considered as inadequate, but they are far from what the original Treaty of Rome, or at least its supranational interpretation, had in mind.

In our opinion, there is no structural or philosophical logic that justifies different electoral arrangements being in place for the same election. In 2004, 25 different elections were held to choose one and the same European Parliament. At least now – to a certain extent – we know better why that is the case.



List of references


Official EU documents:







List of abbreviations


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[1] In this work a uniform procedure is considered to cover inter alia the entitlement to vote, standardization of procedures and freedom of choice, type of constituency, degree of choice offered to the voter, the methods of electing candidates (electoral system in the narrow sense), election date (Grunert, 1990, p 489; Bieber, 1981, p 22).

[2] A gap in data exists when it comes to the debates surrounding the Seitlinger report (1982) and the Bocklet report (1985). This is due to certain problems referred to in the acknowledgements.  However, thanks to the continuity in other texts and to the legal status quo that was preserved in that period, we can assume that no major changes in attitudes occurred.

[3] Authors such as Burban, make this distinction. Maximalists aim for nothing less than a directly elected assembly, able to achieve so much power in order to bring about the real integration of Europe in one stage. Minimalists do not see the EP and its direct elections via a uniform procedure as a necessary requisite for the achievement of power. They prefer to go slowly, thereby willing to compromise and take up a more gradualist approach to things (1981, pp. 64 – 69). Most of the people that adhere to one of these two philosophies do in fact same the share goals and the same vision for Europe. It is their way of achieving it that is different. In many debates MEP’s themselves use these terms to situate their or others’ arguments.

[4] As the second part of this chapter will illustrate, these two questions are interlinked, leading to serious legal and political rumblings.

[5] An EP resolution concerning direct elections was adopted (12 March 1969) referring to the resolution of 1960. The 1969 resolution stated that the Council didn’t act upon the previous one and requested the Council, once again, to do so. Reference was also made to the old art. 175 (art. 232) ECT, threatening with judicial action before the European Court of Justice on grounds of failure to act.

[6] In Elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage (1977).

[7] This was the result of system that in theory allowed one party to win or lose all seats following a switch of a relatively small amount of votes.

[8] This principle, in theory at least, refers to the fact that the EC should not take action if the objectives of the proposed action can be sufficiently achieved by the Member State or its constituent parts (art. 5 ECT).

[9] Cfr. MEP De Vries who stated: “Le project De Gucht, …, n’a pas grand chose ‘d’uniforme’ ” (1996, p. 421).

[10] Anastassopoulos Report on a proposal for an electoral procedure incorporating common principles for the election of Members of the European Parliament of 2 June 1998, adopted 15 July 1998 with 355 votes in favour, 146 against and 39 abstaining.

[11] For more information on thresholds and other characteristics of voting systems see Brew (1981, pp. 29 – 81)

[12] Anastassopoulos in a way refers to this and describes the conflict over the issue “…between national constitutional forces and a union political force to be perhaps one of the most vehement to date in the entire course of Europe towards its unification” (2002, p. 17)

[13] In Voor rechtstreeks algemene verkiezingen van het Europese Parlement (1969).

[14] During this period, Member States would be allowed to settle electoral arrangements themselves.

[15] Brew (1981, pp. 31 – 82) gives a detailed explanation of these electoral systems. In a few words, France uses a single-member constituency system with a two round ballotage. Proportional systems on the other hand seek to distribute seats to a party in accordance with the percentage of votes obtained.

[16] E.g. Germany posed a problem, since the Constitutional Court had declared the Communist Party illegal. German MEP’s would never agree to a proposal which allowed communists to stand for election. Bardi gives more background information to the constitutional prohibition for certain political groups to form political parties in Italy and West Germany (1990, pp. 507 – 508).

[17] De Gaulle demonstrated his anti-supranational views by following the so-called ‘empty chair policy’ since June 1965 and obtaining the Luxemburg compromise in 1966 (Nugent, 2003, p. 170; Dinan, 2004, p. 84)

[18] Dinan (2003, pp. 83 – 125) is used as the main source of factual information.

[19] “Should the European Parliament, the Council or the Commission, in infringement of this Treaty, fail to act, the Member States and the other institutions of the Community may bring an action before the Court of Justice to have the infringement established.” (art. 232 ECT)

[20] In France, only the Gaullists of the R.P.R. had an advantage in the majoritarian electoral system. Most other French parties and certainly the French public had an open view on electoral systems and were no longer attached to the majoritarian system (Burban, 1979, p. 25). It was on issues such as Europe that Giscard d’Estaing’s party of independent republicans could make a distinction between the Gaullists and itself.

[21] Elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage. (1977). Unless stated otherwise, further comments were also found in the debates in this document published.

[22] Schmidt, the speaker of the Socialist Group, acknowledged this and stated that Mr. Dehousse failed because he attempted to solve a number of questions which need not necessarily be settled immediately (p. 95).

[23] For more comment and background on the decision see Kovar & Simon (1979, pp. 225 – 260).

[24] Cf. Prélot as cited by Burban (1979, p. 34)

[25] The single national list violates the principle of proximity which dictates that elections should take into account a link between voters and the elected. It refers to the size of the constituency and the physical and psychological links of a candidate and the constituency in which he stands for election.

[26]“It is far better to construct a Europe based on existing realities rather than to build a Europe of dreams. It is completely plausible to say that it is premature to try to arrive at direct elections to the European Parliament in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States.” (van den Berghe, 1979, p. 331)

[27] The report was adopted with 24 votes to 8 with 13 abstentions.

[28] For more information on the subject of preferential voting see Bardi, who makes an examination of the importance and possible consequences of preferential voting in EP elections (1987).

[29] A comparative representation of the voting on the Act and the Resolution is given by Steed (1983, p. 233).

[30] See previous paragraphs of this chapter.

[31] For more information see chapter 1. B).

[32] In addition to the ‘usual’ arguments against certain aspects of uniform procedure, Lodge draws our attention to some particular circumstances of the second part of the 1980’s which might have complicated agreement on a proposal. These are insufficient pressure from the EP itself, the anticipated obstacles that an agreement could have posed on the accession of  Spain and Portugal and the political difficulties that it would have injected into the debate about the EU and the IGC (1990, p. 227).

[33] In the 1984 and 1989 election, British Liberals were unable to get a single liberal into the EP.

[34] Debates of the European Parliament (1).

[35] Cfr. supra. The period leading up to the first European Parliament’s elections (1985-1979)

[36] Adopted with 207 votes against 79 with 13 abstentions.

[37] Debates of the European Parliament (2).

[38] In response to a question asked by Mr. Vertemati (PSE), the Council answered that the EP’s draft only contained general principles and that Council needed more time to put these principles into concrete regulations. Therefore it seemed unlikely that a uniform procedure would be in place before the next elections (01/09/1993).

[39] Debates of the European Parliament (3).

[40] Debates of the European Parliament (2).

[41] See Chapter 1. B) footnote 8.

[42] Debates of the European Parliament (4).

[43] This argument is theoretical. However, since it seems so logical and since MEP’s have already used this reasoning, we attach validity to it.

[44] Cf. chapter 2 A)

[45] In Voor rechtstreeks algemene verkiezingen van het Europese Parlement (1969). Unless stated otherwise, further comments made during EP debates were also found in this document.

[46] In Elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage (1977). Unless stated otherwise, further comments made during EP debates were also found in this document.

[47] Unless stated otherwise, further comments are also taken from the 1982 Seitlinger report.

[48] Unless stated otherwise, further comments are also taken from this report.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Debates of the European Parliament. Part-session from 09 March 1993.

[51] Debates in the European Parliament (3).