Please contact your government: Open letter on proposed barring of the German Pirate Party from European Parliament

Please spread today’s open letter to EU governments.

The German Pirate Party, whose only MEP Julia Reda was elected with 1.4% of the vote, is to be excluded from the European Parliament if governments have their way.

More information:

Urgent: Please veto proposed compulsory thresholds for EU elections

Dear Sir or Madam,

please veto compulsory thresholds for EU elections as pushed for by
German major parties.

The reform of the Electoral Act can be agreed on in time by
abstaining from imposing compulsory thresholds. Even without any
reform of the Electoral Act, the elections would not be impeded.

Some arguments to support our position:

1) Less democracy, less legitimacy: Compulsory thresholds would
undermine the European Parliament’s objective of enhancing its
democratic legitimacy (Preamble B and E of the 2015 Resolution) and
broadening its composition by excluding minority and independent candidates.
Thresholds would make a number of interesting voices disappear from the
debate. It would void ten thosands of votes for minority and independent
candidates.
For example Julia Reda (the only Pirate Party MEP) has been voted one of
the most influential MEPs with regard to Internet policy. She is vice
president of the GUE/Verts group and was EP rapporteur on the copyright
dossier.

2) Illegality: The proposal to introduce an obligatory threshold in
European elections is at odds with the principle of proportionality set
out in EU law, as well as the principle of subsidiarity.

3) No need for harmonising thresholds: Six chambers of four Members
States have submitted formal reasoned opinions on the proposed reform of
the Electoral Act. Five further chambers of four Member States submitted
political contributions, which expressed criticism of non-compliance
with the principle of subsidiarity, or of overstretching the legal basis
on which the act is to be adopted. There is simply no need for
harmonising thresholds.

3) No consensus: 13 EU member states (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain,
Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal
and the United Kingdom) do not currently have electoral thresholds. The
evident varied practice of Member States and their differing political
and electoral circumstances suggests that this is a matter best decided
at national level.
Only MEPs from the EPP, the Socialists & Democrats, and ALDE have voted
in favour of the EPs proposal.

4) Dangerous precedent: While the provision would initially only apply
to large constituencies, it is a worrying precedent. Even if most EU
member states would not be directly affected by the specific proposal, a
compulsory threshold at EU level would set a dangerous precedent for
national elections.

5) Court decisions: The German Constitutional Court
(Bundesverfassungsgericht) has repeatedly annulled German attempts to
exclude minority and independent candidates from EU elections by way of
thresholds: “the serious interference with the principles of electoral
equality and equal opportunities which the three-percent threshold
entails cannot be justified,” the Court held. It is illegitimate for
major German parties to attempt to circumvent this jurisprudence by way
of the EU.
https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/EN/2014/bvg14-014.html

5) Functioning not impeded: Contrary to the proposal thresholds are not
needed to maintain the functioning of political processes in the
European Parliament. As the Bundesverfassungsgericht pointed out, it is
not to be expected that the lack of a threshold could lead to an
impairment of the functioning of the European Parliament. In view of the
integrating power of parliamentary groups, it is not apparent that new
parliamentarians from smaller parties refrain from joining one of the
established parliamentary groups, or a newly created parliamentary group.
Thresholds as proposed might bring the number of parties represented in
the European Parliament from currently 206 to maybe 180, which would not
really make a difference.

6) The implicit objective of excluding far-right parties cannot be
archieved by way of thresholds. Right wing parties such as the German
AfD exceed thresholds of 2-5% by far, whereas a threshold would mostly
exclude left wing and center parties (in Germany: Freie Wähler, Pirate
Party, Animal Welfare Party/Tierschutzpartei, Family
party/Familienpartei, Satirical Party/Die Partei, Ecological Party/ÖDP
and only one minor right-wing party NPD).

Could you please let me know the current state of play?

What is the exact wording currently proposed in regards to thresholds?

Yours sincerely
Patrick Breyer
Pirate Party

Reporting by De Standaard, Belgium on 13 April

Translation of original article (in Dutch)

Merkel forces Belgium to approve a European electoral threshold, but the N-VA is bothering. Also a community gesture can not please her.

        If the political and diplomatic machine of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel shifts a gear higher, there is little that can stop her. Nevertheless, the Belgian federal government is currently in the process of temporarily blocking a proposal that is crucial for Germany, under the impetus of the N-VA.

        In order to prevent precious parliamentary seats to go to small German splinter parties in the May 2019 European elections, Merkel wants to make it possible for member states to introduce an electoral threshold at European level. Currently, 7 of the 96 German seats in the European Parliament are in the hands of parties such as the far-right NPD and the satirical Die Partei, which achieved a seat under the slogan ‘Yes to Europe, No to Europe’. While other countries, such as France, themselves have an electoral threshold, the German Constitutional Court has refused a similar proposal from Merkel because the European electoral rules do not provide for it.

        That is why Germany has been working for some time to process all the Member States in order to get a new European electoral law through. But that requires unanimity. A year ago, Berlin raised the issue with Belgian diplomacy, and Merkel spoke to Michel about the latest European summit. But while an agreement is urgently needed in order for the rules to be valid in 2019, Belgium is still the only European country that is at odds.

                “Why is our country difficult? This does not apply to us anyway? This smells strongly of political blackmail ‘
Source from Belgian diplomatic circles

        The N-VA does not need to know about a European electoral threshold, although it would not apply to Belgium. Under pressure from countries including the Netherlands, the electoral threshold in the final proposal only applies to countries with more than 35 seats in parliament. Since France already has an electoral threshold and Poland and Italy are divided into several constituencies before the European elections, the regulation would only apply to Germany and Spain.

        ‘For us this is an important matter of principle’, it sounds at a federal N-VA source. After all, small regionalist parties – from, for example, Catalonia, the Basque Country or Corsica – threaten to disappear from parliament, the party argues. ‘And yes, the N-VA has also ever been small and we have not forgotten yet’, wrote Vice-President Sander Loones on Facebook.

         There is frustration about the N-VA position in diplomatic circles. “Why is our country difficult? This does not apply to us anyway? This smells strongly of political blackmail. “A similar signal sounds from coalition partners CD & V and Open VLD. They point to a community requirement that the N-VA wants to use as a mere change in exchange for their fiat. ‘Flat cow trading’, it sounds at CD & V.

        The demand goes back to a longing that has been heard in Flanders for years: at the European and international level, the region is boxing under its institutional weight. Flanders wants to be able to send its own ministers and diplomats to European high-level consultations more often, but the current agreements between the federal states have not yet been adapted to the powers Flanders has acquired in the meantime. Both the Flemish and the federal coalition agreement promises to change that, but the passages remained dead letter to this day.

        However, the N-VA denies that a granting of that requirement would pull them over to agree with the electoral threshold and, in turn, accuses its coalition partners of linking the two files. “We are not going to admit to something that has already been agreed?” it sounds. Because: ‘the discussion about Flemish representation at European level was put on the agenda by the Flemish government more than two years ago’, says a Flemish N-VA source. “Michel had time to implement the coalition agreement on this point.”

        The Prime Minister’s spokesmen did not answer questions for comment. Yesterday an informal meeting between the cabinets of the vice-premiers did not yield anything. New consultations will follow on Monday. Without a solution, the coalition partners of the N-VA fear European loss of vision, and an expensive open account with the most powerful European country. “This is extremely important for Germany,” says a European source.

        Germany, which has been surprised by the Belgian block, is now increasing the pressure. MEPs from Merkel’s party CDU are exerting pressure on their colleagues at CD & V, because the current EU President Bulgaria wants to seal a political agreement early next week. The German minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas is in Brussels today for a meeting with his colleague Didier Reynders. He will raise the issue.

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  1. Please contact your government: Open letter on proposed barring of the German Pirate Party from European Parliament http://www.patrick-breyer.de/?p=572661

 

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