BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A battle between European Union governments for more seats in the European Parliament starts on Tuesday when the EU lawmaker charged with drafting the future make-up of the influential assembly delivers his plan.
French conservative MEP Alain Lamassoure will unveil his draft proposal to the assembly's constitutional affairs committee which has been asked by EU governments to propose a new seat distribution system for the EU's legislature from 2009.
Spain, Poland and France are leading the scramble for the 14 extra seats due to be redistributed for European Parliament elections in two years' time when the number of parliamentarians goes down to 750 members from 785.
The number of MEPs was temporarily increased from 742 in 2004 to take account of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. But this limit will be reduced again in 2009, with Germany due to lose three seats, one of which would go to Malta.
However, the exact breakdown remains unclear with many lawmakers and governments jostling for a greater say in the assembly, which has growing sway in EU legislation covering areas such as the internal market, environment and transport.
"The worry is that it has been so far so good, but on such a touchy and highly sensitive political subject, anything can happen," Lamassoure told Reuters.
The French politician will pen a final proposal to be voted on by the full parliament on Oct. 8.
This plan is then expected to be endorsed as part of the EU's new reform treaty when the bloc's 27 EU leaders meet to ratify the bill at the end of October.
Spain already put its own plan to the committee in July in which Madrid seeks five extra MEPs and allocates two new deputies to Poland.
A number of EU lawmakers say Warsaw's government was guaranteed the extra seats by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in return for signing up to the treaty during talks in June.
Under Lamassoure's proposal Spain would be awarded four more seats than their entitlement for the 2009 elections. Poland would gain one extra seat with France, Sweden and Austria each gaining two more MEPs.
Britain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Latvia are also allocated an extra seat each under his draft plan.
"Of course I expect many MEPs and governments to defend their positions, but I think my proposal is politically acceptable," Lamassoure said.
However, some countries, notably Ireland are unhappy.
Ireland is set to lose one seat, but in a letter sent by the Irish government to Lamassoure on Monday, it is seeking to ringfence its existing seats and possibly seek another.
"Ireland has the fastest growing population in the EU ... these significant demographic changes amount to a strong case for allocating Ireland a 13th seat for the period 2009-2014," the letter seen by Reuters said.
Lamassoure is sympathetic to Dublin's request, but said it is unlikely to be successful.
"I know they are unhappy that Lithuania with a million less people will have the same number as them, but then you would have to increase Finland and so on and so on."
Did you find this article insightful?