An entirely new kind of election will taking place at the end of next week.?
An entirely new kind of election will taking place at the end of next week. Voters in nine European countries -- a total of 180 million people will have the right to go to the polls between June 7th and 10th to choose the first democratically-elected Parliament of the European Community.
SYNOPSIS: Signor Emilio Colombo of Italy, announcing the opening of a session of the old European Parliament. Members used to be nominated from the national parliaments of member states. But here they sat by party not nationality, with Communists on the left and Liberal Democrats on the right. Christian Democrats, Gaullists and Coervatives sat between them, for convenience rather than in strict political spectrum. The new elected Parliament will also form party groups, some of which have been campaigning on common programmes.
The Parliament's main task will still be to debate, and vote on, matters which are referred to it for its opinion by the European Commission. It also has some control over the Community budget, including the right, in the last resort, to reject it altogether. In practice, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers hammer out agreement.
Question time gives Parliament its best opportunity to check on the activity of the Commission. This was an innovation imported from the British House of Commons after Britain joined the Community.
Specialised committees of the Parliament examine proposed new Community laws in detail: dealing perhaps with employment, agriculture, transport or the environment. Again, they only give an opinion; but Council and Commissions pay heed to it.
Members and staff are constantly on the move. Committees meet in Brussels. The Parliamentary Secretariat is based in Luxembourg. Parliament itself has held half its meetings there and half at the Palace of Europe in Strasbourg. Sessions of the new Parliament will all be in Strasbourg for the time being as Luxembourg has no hall big enough. But it is building a new one, and hopes to get a share of the meetings back again.
When the trains and cars and aircraft bring the new members to Strasbourg for their first meeting in mid-July, they will have the same powers as before. But they believe that, being democratically elected, they will speak with more authority; and some hope that in time Parliament's powers will be extended.
The new parliament will have 410 members. The four largest member states, West Germany, France, Britain and Italy will have 81 each; the other five a total of 86 seats, in rough proportion to their populations, ranging from 25 for the netherlands to 6 for Luxembourg.
Mr. Roy jenkins, for the Commission, recognised the significance of the new development.
For the first time, the people of the Community have a direct voice in its affairs. The question is: how many will trouble to use it. After a slow start, complicated by national elections in Britain and Italy, the signs are that interest is growing.