Labour MEPs disagree about new transnational list for European elections

Maltese MEPs showed mixed feelings in last Tuesday’s vote on introducing transnational lists for the next European elections in 2024

Maltese MEPs showed mixed feelings in last Tuesday’s vote on introducing transnational lists for the next European elections in 2024.

The European Parliament voted in favour of changing European election rules to allow people to vote for pan-European MEPs contesting on a single list presented by their respective European political parties.

Under the new rules, Maltese voters would be handed two ballots, one to vote for their six Maltese MEPs of choice, and a second ballot with 28 candidates from across the bloc.

But support for the new rules is not too clear cut. 323 MEPs voted for the changes, but a substantial number of EPP and European Conservative members voted against (257). The votes of Maltese MEPs somewhat reflected this divide.

Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Cyrus Engerer were the only Maltese members to vote in favour of the final report, with their socialist colleague Josianne Cutajar abstaining, while Labour MEP Alfred Sant and Nationalist MEP David Casa voted against the resolution altogether.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for small states like us,” Agius Saliba told MaltaToday, who explained that his vote is in line with the Maltese government’s own national position on the issue at European Council level. He argues that the system will be beneficial for Malta.

“There’s a higher chance for us to elect a seventh Maltese MEP with other small states,” he said, pointing out that member states will be split into groups according to population, to ensure proportionality. “Each group will elect four MEPs, and Malta will be grouped with the EU’s smaller states.”

Engerer similarly said that the reformed electoral law would help bring Europe closer to citizens, even helping to reduce the overall democratic deficit.

“It is time for citizens to choose themselves what political direction they want the European Union to take. Apart from the ballot to elect the six Maltese MEPs, having another ballot to choose which European political party should lead and preside the European Commission, will give the Commission itself more legitimacy,” he said.

He added that this will give Malta a unique opportunity to have more than six Maltese MEPs in Brussels and Strasbourg.

“We managed to secure a ‘district’ made up of only small member states. Knowing the hard work of Maltese MEPs and our ambitions, we will have the opportunity to possibly also increase the number of Members originating from Malta and Gozo.”

Josianne Cutajar was more sceptical of the overall proposal, noting that some issues were more highly debated than others. For example, one amendment to the report called for a common election day throughout Europe on Europe Day, something which Cutajar voted against. “I believe that the report is going overboard in certain parts of the text. One such example is the call for the first official projections to be announced simultaneously in all member states on election day at 9pm. Speaking of Malta, apart from the fact that we vote till 10pm, until ballot boxes reach the counting hall and the counting procedure starts, this is not practical.”

But on the transnational lists amendment, Cutajar voted in favour. She said the proposal was endorsed during the Conference on the Future of Europe, and the version proposed in the report was an improvement for smaller states compared to the previous one.

Meanwhile, Alfred Sant voted against the proposal to create transnational lists.

“It is an artificial construct that will remain unintelligible to the ordinary voter. The details proposed supposedly to reassure smaller member states are grotesque and reflect the Brussels bubble syndrome,” he said in his vote explanation.

He also disagreed with the ‘spitzenkandidaten’ system, whereby citizens would be given the right to vote for the President of the Commission through the EU-wide lists. “The European Parliament should just retain consultative and approval functions over the President of the Commission as appointed by the European Council.”

Two-tier membership?

Peter Agius, an MEP candidate for the Nationalist Party, warned that the transnational list system could create a two-tier membership within the European Parliament. As it stands, the resolution is unclear on who these MEPs will represent, and what their status will be in the parliament.

“This will create a two-tier membership. Who will these MEPs represent?” he questioned. “Will a German MEP be expected to represent the interests of the Maltese?”

Agius pointed out that the Lisbon Treaty clearly states that the number of MEPs cannot exceed 751, including the President of the European Parliament. “Where will these 28 seats come from? Will an elected MEP have to resign and make way? Will they change the treaty?” he asked.

“The resolution is opaque. It will be interesting to see how it could be applied.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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