The European Parliament is about to make a terrible mistake. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty the Strasbourg Assembly has had to submit its composition to the Heads of State and Government - which this time is due to be modified in order to integrate Croatian MEPs after their country enters the Union on July 1st.
With each European election it has to reflect - slightly more each time - demographic reality - according to the degressive proportionality principle. This concept, designed for the occasion, guarantees the representation of all of the States, whatever their size, but it also aims to organise progressively the fair representation of all European citizens. Today a Maltese MEP represents 69,352 voters whilst a French MEP represents 883,756, a Luxemburger 87,476 whilst a German represents 826,704 voters. It would be difficult to be more unjust! Moreover it is because of this imbalance that the German Constitutional Court does not recognise the democratic nature of the European Parliament, and in many Member States it is the main reason behind the challenge made to the representativeness of the only european institution elected by direct universal suffrage.
Whilst the Parliament has witnessed an increase in its powers, this situation has to be corrected if it wants finally to assert itself as the voice of the citizens, who think that European integration is too distant and not democratic enough.
However Mssrs Gualtieri et Trzaskowski, the project's rapporteurs, want to put a rule to the vote of their colleagues on 11th March, which is contrary to the treaty. In their opinion the formula "no one loses and no one gains more than one seat" is the only one "likely in the present text - to lead to a majority in Parliament" .... and to vital unanimity in the European Council. And so the grand democratic principles are being rolled back because they are difficult to implement.
The European Union, its institutions and also its Member States, have to stop doing this sort of thing immediately, since it is heading directly towards a trial of legitimacy.
A democratic European Parliament, in other words one that is representative, is necessary now more than ever before if we are to gain citizen support for the European project. And as long as the European leaders confuse compromise with cop-out, dialogue with weak consensus, democratic principles with the facility of gradual opting out, we shall not win back the vital confidence of the populations in the construction of a united Europe.
Let us hope that the Strasbourg Assembly rejects this poor proposal or at least that one head of State rejects this cheap decision. It would comprise the first step towards healing Europe of the sickness which is undermining it.