What does a country represent

European elections

The number of members of an EU member state in the European Parliament (EP) is not directly proportional to its population size. "Degressive proportional representation" is the name of the distribution formula in which smaller countries are proportionally overrepresented.

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Click on the graphic to open the PDF. License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)

In the 2014 European elections, the number of parliamentary seats for some countries in the European Union changed. This measure was necessary in order to meet the maximum number of 751 seats set in the Lisbon Treaty. When Croatia joined the Union in 2013, it had meanwhile increased to 766 members.

As the most populous member state, the Federal Republic of Germany will send the most parliamentarians to the EP with 96 members, three fewer than before. Other larger member states such as France or the United Kingdom and Italy follow with 74 and 73 members respectively. The smallest EU member states in terms of population, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus, then each send six MEPs.

This creates an imbalance, which is referred to as the principle of degressive proportionality or degressive vote distribution. This states that the ratio between the population and the number of seats in each member state varies depending on its respective population and that every member of a more populous member state represents more citizens than every member of a less populous member state.

In practice, this means that every Maltese MP, each with around 67,000 eligible voters, represents a smaller number of eligible citizens than the German MPs. With almost 855,000 eligible voters, the latter represent more than twelve times as many citizens eligible to vote.

There are several reasons that speak against a directly proportional relationship between the size of the population and the number of delegates to be sent. In principle, a certain maximum number should not be exceeded in order not to endanger Parliament's ability to work. The degressive distribution of votes also enables small and medium-sized states to have a say in parliament in the European Union. Otherwise, their concerns could run the risk of being blocked by the intervention of a few large member states.