How to ignore an election, EU-style

Something I find shocking, but nobody else seems to have much noticed: there are 18 elected MEPs who have not been allowed to sit in the European Parliament.

The Treaty of Lisbon is to blame — or rather, the EU Council and Commission’s reluctance to implement awkwardly democratic parts of it. So the new unelected positions created by the treaty were filled immediately after ratification. The elected positions created — 18 new MEPs, to take office immediately — remain unfilled almost a year later.

There are a bunch of — frankly ridiculous — procedural excuses for keeping the MEPs out of parliament. The real reason seems to be that, in some countries, the MEPs elected were from opponents of the national government. Thus those national governments have taken advantage of the (extensive) procedural uncertainty to keep their opponents out of Brussels.

France is the main villain here. By the 2009 election results they should have 2 new MEPs: one UMP (conservative) and one Green. Sarkozy doesn’t like this; he’d rather replace the Green with a socialist, taking them from the French parliament rather than the previous EU election candidates. The French Prime Minister beautifully explains that appointing MEPS would avoid the “useless controversies” involved in following the previous election results, or holding a new election.

Because the Parliament wants all the new members to arrive simultaneously, none of them can take office until France sorts itself out. So MEPs elected in Sweden or Spain (which sensibly sorted out their rules before the 2009 election) can’t vote because Sarkozy doesn’t like the French greens. And all the other EU centres of power are willing to let France slow things down; it’s not worth rocking the boat just to demand implementation of an election result.

In fact, nobody seems all that bothered. Admittedly the Mail and the Telegraph objected — not to the failure of democracy, but because they (wrongly) believed that the disenfranchised MEPs would still be able to claim pay and expenses.

I also probably wouldn’t have noticed, if I hadn’t come into contact with one of the affected MEPs, Amelia Andersdotter from the Swedish Pirate Party. She’s also one of the most coherent, inspiring and intelligent politicians I’ve ever encountered.

The pirate movement are a bit like the Greens — some members are just interested in homoeopathy or downloading True Blood, but the geeky core have a very persuasive economic and social programme. Amelia’s definitely part of that core; she has not only an impressive knowledge of trade treaties and EU procedures, but more importantly the ability to fit the details into a broad picture of how they are changing society. I’m a fan.

Of course it’s equally outrageous that obnoxious-but-elected politicians are kept out of parliament (the extra UK MEP would probably be a Tory). Still, I can’t help being particularly infuriated that a politician with so much to say is being excluded.

[disclaimer: this post is based on a lot of confusing and contradictory information, and I’ve almost certainly misunderstood some of the details]

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