EU governments are set to use next week’s pre-Christmas summit in Brussels to formally kill off plans for transnational lists and Spitzenkandidaten, or lead candidates, at the next European elections in 2024. 

According to the draft conclusions seen by EURACTIV, prepared ahead of next Thursday’s gathering of EU leaders, “discussions within Council indicate that there is no unanimity in favour of the European Parliament’s proposal as it stands”.

“Indeed, a majority of delegations is clearly opposed to the key political innovations proposed by the European Parliament, and there are serious concerns about the respect of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality concerning provisions which go in the direction of establishing a uniform procedure in all member states,” the draft states. 

The move will come as a blow to EU lawmakers, who had believed this was their best chance yet to entrench what they regard as key measures to ‘Europeanise’ the elections to the European Parliament in 2024 and reverse the trend of poor voter turnout. 

The draft reforms to the EU electoral law agreed by the European Parliament earlier this year would establish an EU-wide constituency to elect 28 transnational seats on top of the current 705 seats elected to the chamber. 

The idea behind the innovation was that it would allow voters to vote for a national party and then cast a second vote ‘for European parties with the same programme and candidates. 

The idea of a transnational list – a campaigning point for European federalists for several decades – has been put on the table at various points over the last fifteen years. It obtained majority support in the Parliament ahead of the last two elections, only to be rejected by national governments. 

The decision to effectively axe the idea of a formal Spitzenkandidat, a lead candidate of each political group, vying for the post of Commission president, ahead of the 2024 polls, marks arguably a greater setback for MEPs.

The initiative was used to elect Jean-Claude Juncker to the Commission presidency in 2014 but was abandoned five years later when EPP lead candidate, Manfred Weber, was passed over in favour of fellow German Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen. 

Other provisions demanded by MEPs, including lowering the voting age for European elections to 16 and requiring the polls to be held on the same day across the EU27, are also set to be rejected by governments. 

The EU’s electoral laws are not subject to the normal co-decision procedure where MEPs have an equal say with national governments gathered in the EU Council and can negotiate a compromise text. Instead, having tabled their proposal, MEPs can only approve or reject the final text from ministers.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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