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The other institutions and bodies of the Union

INTRODUCTION

With enlargement, the European institutions will have to be adapted to the new number of Member States to ensure that they continue to function effectively. As well as the institutional reforms affecting the Commission, the Council and the Court of Justice, the other institutions such as the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the Court of Auditors and the European Central Bank have also seen changes made to their institutional set-up by the Treaty of Nice.

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Over the course of European construction, the number of seats allocated to each Member State has time and again given rise to protracted discussion. The two main points at issue are, on the one hand, ensuring that the distribution of parliamentary seats is reasonably proportional to Member States' population and, on the other, enabling all the various shades of political opinion to be represented even in the least populous Member States. A further consideration is the need for a ceiling on the total number of Parliament members to ensure that the institution can work effectively.

The Amsterdam Treaty set the number of MEPs at 700. The Nice Treaty has amended Article 189 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) to increase the maximum number of Parliament members to 732.

The aim of the Treaty of Nice was to prepare the European institutions for the next European Union (EU) enlargement. It includes provisions which can be adapted to the different potential scenarios. At the time the Nice Treaty was concluded, it was not yet possible to establish exactly which of the candidate countries would be capable of concluding their negotiations or on what date enlargement would take effect (in one wave or several).

This led to the following two provisions being included in the Nice Treaty:

  • Article 2 of the Protocol on the enlargement of the European Union, which lays down the new distribution of Parliament seats between the fifteen Member States reducing, with effect from the 2004-2009 parliamentary term, the total number of members from 626 (current figure) to 535 (these provisions will not now take effect in view of the EU enlargement on 1 May 2004).
  • Declaration No 20 of the Conference adopting the Treaty of Nice, which established the common position to be adopted by the Member States at the accession negotiations with the twelve candidate countries on the distribution of seats at the European Parliament.

The above Protocol on the enlargement of the European Union also established that if the total number of members was less than 732, (in the event of staggered enlargement, as is the case with Romania and Bulgaria in the second wave), a pro rata correction was to be applied to the number of representatives to be elected in each Member State, so that the total number was as close as possible to 732.

Following this correction, however, the number of representatives to be elected in each Member State must not exceed the current figure. The remaining seats would then be distributed only between those Member States which has lost Parliament seats through the redistribution. However, in the event of any further accession during the parliamentary term, the number of seats would provisionally be allowed to exceed 732, this maximum applying again with effect from the 2009-2014 parliamentary term.

In the meantime, the provisions of the Nice Treaty have been applied in the Accession Treaty signed in Athens on 16 April 2003. The distribution of seats for the 2004-2009 parliamentary term is shown in the table below, and is the result of the accession negotiations during which it was decided -- contrary to Declaration No 20 referred to above -- to put the Czech Republic and Hungary on an equal footing with Greece, Belgium and Portugal. The Accession Treaty also included the pro rata correction to bring the total number of MEPs to be elected in 2004 to 732.

As a final point, the number of representatives for Romania and Bulgaria is still to be decided in the course of the accession negotiations. Declaration No 20 of the Conference adopting the Treaty of Nice established the common position to be adopted by the Member States in these negotiations: 33 seats for Romania and 17 for Bulgaria. As indicated above, these numbers will have to be adapted pro rata in the Accession Treaty.

COMPOSITION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT 2004 - 2009

Member StateEuropean Parliament seats
Germany99
United Kingdom78
France78
Italy78
Spain54
Poland54
Netherlands27
Greece24
Czech Republic24
Belgium24
Hungary24
Portugal24
Sweden19
Austria18
Slovakia14
Denmark14
Finland14
Ireland13
Lithuania13
Latvia9
Slovenia7
Estonia6
Cyprus6
Luxembourg6
Malta5
Total732

THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE

The Nice Treaty altered the provisions concerning the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), amending Article 257 of the EC Treaty determining the socioprofessional origin of the organised civil society representatives to include a new category representing consumers.

Article 258 lays down the new composition of the Committee, setting the maximum number of members at 350. In preparation for enlargement, Declaration No 20 on the enlargement of the EU, annexed to the Nice Treaty, established the common position to be adopted by the Member States at the accession negotiations. In this declaration, the Intergovernmental Conference opted for a linear adjustment in the seats, i.e. the current Member States would keep the same number of seats following enlargement to 27 Member States. The distribution of seats is identical to that of the Committee of the Regions (see table below).

On this basis, the Accession Treaty set the number of Committee members at 317 for the 25 Member States. Declaration No 20 envisaged 15 seats for Romania and 12 seats for Bulgaria.

Finally, Article 259 was amended to introduce qualified majority voting for appointment by the Council of the members of the European Economic and Social Committee.

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

The composition of the Committee of the Regions and the distribution of seats between Member States is the same as for the European Economic and Social Committee. The Nice Treaty set the same maximum number of members (350) and Declaration No 20 established the same common position for the Member States in the accession negotiations. The same adjustments were therefore made in the Accession Treaty (cf. table below).

The Nice Treaty specified the conditions for membership of the Committee of the Regions. Under the amended Article 263, sitting on the Committee of the Regions now depends on holding a regional or local authority electoral mandate or being politically accountable to an elected assembly. Article 263 also specifies that the term of office of members of the Committee shall terminate automatically when the mandate on the basis of which they were appointed comes to an end.

Finally, Article 263 was also amended to bring in qualified majority voting for appointment by the Council of the members of the Committee of the Regions.

EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE / COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS - DISTRIBUTION OF SEATS FOR EU 25

Member StateSeats on the Economic and Social Committee /
Committee of the Regions
Germany24
United Kingdom24
France24
Italy24
Spain21
Poland21
Netherlands12
Greece12
Czech Republic12
Belgium12
Hungary12
Portugal12
Sweden12
Austria12
Slovakia9
Denmark9
Finland9
Ireland9
Lithuania9
Latvia7
Slovenia7
Estonia7
Cyprus6
Luxembourg6
Malta5
Total317

THE COURT OF AUDITORS

The Nice Treaty amended Article 247 of the EC Treaty and set the number of Members of the Court of Auditors at one per Member State. The previous method of setting a precise number of Members (which in fact always corresponded to the number of Member States) has therefore been replaced by a system which avoids having to amend this article with each enlargement. Article 247 EC has also been amended to introduce qualified majority voting for appointment by the Council of the Members of the Court of Auditors.

THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK

Article 5 of the Nice Treaty amended the Protocol on the Statutes of the European System of Central Banks and the European Central Bank, annexed to the EC Treaty. The Nice Treaty adds a new paragraph to Article 10 of these Statutes specifying that the provisions on the voting rights of the Governors of the national central banks on the Governing Council may be amended by the Council meeting in the composition of the Heads of State or Government, acting unanimously. The purpose of these changes is to ensure that the Governing Council can continue to work effectively after EU enlargement and the entry of new Member States into the euro zone. On 21 March 2003, the Council adopted a decision to this effect based on a recommendation by the European Central Bank. This decision will enter into force once it has been ratified by the national parliaments.

SUMMARY TABLE

ArticlesSubject
EC Treaty189European Parliament - number of members
190European Parliament - distribution of seats between Member States
247Court of Auditors - number of members
257 to 258Economic and Social Committee - composition
259Economic and Social Committee - appointment of members
263Committee of the Regions - composition
EC Treaty - ProtocolsProtocol on the Statutes of the European System of Central Banks and the European Central Bank - Article 10
Treaty of Nice - ProtocolsProtocol on the enlargement of the EU - Provisions concerning the European Parliament - Article 2
Treaty of Nice - DeclarationsDeclaration No 20 on the enlargement of the European Union - table giving the distribution of seats in the European Parliament and on the European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions for a Union of 27 Member States
Accession TreatyArticles 11 and 25: European Parliament
Article 14: Economic and Social Committee
Article 15: Committee of the Regions
Last updated: 13.09.2007
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