Maltese MPs expressed mixed feelings during last Tuesday’s vote on the introduction of transnational lists for the upcoming European elections in 2024.
The European Parliament has voted in favor of a modification of the European electoral rules in order to allow citizens to vote for pan-European MEPs standing on a single list presented by their respective European political parties.
Under the new rules, Maltese voters would receive two ballots, one to vote for the six Maltese MPs of their choice and a second ballot with 28 candidates from across the bloc.
But support for the new rules isn’t too clear. 323 MEPs voted for the changes, but a significant number of EPP and Conservative MEPs voted against (257). The votes of Maltese MEPs somewhat reflected this divide.
Labor MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Cyrus Engerer were the only Maltese MEPs to vote in favor of the final report, with socialist colleague Josianne Cutajar abstaining, while Labor MEP Alfred Sant and nationalist MEP David Casa voted against the resolution.
“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 national position on the issue at Council level. European. He maintains that the system will be beneficial for Malta.
“We have a better chance of electing a seventh Maltese MEP with other small states,” he said, stressing that member states will be divided into groups according to population, to ensure proportionality. “Each group will elect four MEPs, and Malta will be grouped with the smaller EU states.”
Engerer also said that the reformed electoral law would help bring Europe closer to the citizens, even helping to reduce the overall democratic deficit.
“It is time for citizens to choose for themselves the political direction they wish to give to the European Union. Besides the ballot to elect the six Maltese MPs, having another ballot to choose which European political party should lead and chair 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 MPs in Brussels and Strasbourg.
“We managed to get a ‘district’ made up of only small member states. Knowing the hard work of Maltese MEPs and our ambitions, we will eventually have the possibility to also increase the number of MEPs from Malta and Gozo.
Josianne Cutajar was more skeptical of the overall proposal, noting that some issues were more debated than others. For example, an amendment to the report called for a common election day across Europe on Europe Day, which Cutajar voted against. “I think the report goes too far in some parts of the text. An example of this is the call for the simultaneous announcement of the first official screenings in all Member States on election day at 9 p.m. Speaking of Malta, apart from the fact that we vote until 10 p.m., until the ballot boxes arrive in the counting room and the counting procedure begins, it is not practical.
But on the Transnational Lists Amendment, Cutajar voted yes. She said that the proposal had been approved at the Conference on the Future of Europe and that the version proposed in the report was an improvement for small states compared to the previous one.
Meanwhile, Alfred Sant voted against the proposal to create transnational lists.
“It is an artificial construct which will remain unintelligible to the ordinary voter. The details offered supposedly to reassure small member states are preposterous and reflect the Brussels bubble syndrome,” he said in his explanation of vote.
He also does not agree with the system of “spitzenkandidaten”, according to which citizens would have the right to vote for the President of the Commission through European lists. “The European Parliament should be content to retain advisory and approval functions over the President of the Commission appointed by the European Council.”
Peter Agius, MEP candidate for the Nationalist Party, warned that the transnational list system could create a two-tier composition in the European Parliament. As things stand, the resolution does not specify who will represent these deputies and what their status in parliament will be.
“This will create a two-tiered membership. Who will represent these MEPs? he asked. “Should a German MEP 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 step aside? Will they change the treaty? He asked.
“The resolution is opaque. It will be interesting to see how this could be applied.