National diplomats have this morning finalised changes to the Lisbon Treaty
in order to allow 18 extra MEPs to officially take their seats in the European Parliament.
EU leaders agreed at last week's EU summit to launch an Intergovernmental Conference
(IGC) to handle the required treaty change, and this was concluded in a meeting of the permanent representatives of the member states in Brussels – known as COREPER II
Now all that remains before the 18 additional MEPs can officially take up their duties is for the national parliaments of all 27 Member States to ratify the treaty change.
Currently, the 18 MEPs – referred to as “ghost MEPs
” – enjoy “observer
” status in the Parliament and will now be able to begin receiving their allowances and salary although they cannot
vote or contribute to debates in the House or in Committees.
The situation has arisen because the last European Parliament elections took place in June 2009 when the Nice Treaty was still in force and so 736
MEPs were elected and are now in office.
But now the Lisbon Treaty has entered into force
which envisages 751
seats in Parliament, giving 18 additional seats to 12 Member States, including the UK, while Germany is set to lose three seats.
While these three German MEPs are permitted to continue to the end of the current legislature, the arrival of the 18 additional members would temporarily raise the total number of seats to 754 (736 + 18).
There is no indication on how long this process will take although for the sake of democracy let’s hope it happens quickly.