Malta’s sixth MEP will be granted observer status once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by Ireland, according to a deal approved by the outgoing European Parliamen, The Times reported.
This means that, as from January, Malta’s sixth representative will be able to take part in all EP functions and receive the full package of salaries and perks, which are set to increase to over €400,000 a year for Maltese MEPs.
However, the sixth MEP will not have the right to vote like the other five MEPs and will only become a fully-fledged member once the legal protocol is carried by the 27 member states, a process that can take up to two years, the Times adds.
This arrangement will not only benefit Malta’s sixth MEP but the 17 other MEPs from 12 different member states, which have been allotted more seats as a result of the Lisbon Treaty.
Initially, The Times report says, Malta was only entitled to elect five MEPs but, following intense lobbying by the government, the EU agreed to allow an extra seat to put the island on a par with other small member states, such as Luxembourg and Cyprus.
According to EU rules, the added seats, which will bring the total of MEPs to 754 from 736, can only become effective through the ratification of a new protocol, which will be approved individually by the 27 national parliaments once the treaty comes into force.
The EU plans to include this protocol as a clause in the entry treaty for Croatia in 2011, the report says. However, both Croatia’s entry and Ireland’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty are still in the balance, which means Malta’s sixth MEP can remain an observer for months, if not years.
Asked by The Times whether it would have made more sense if the new MEP took up the seat when the legal protocol was ratified by the 27 member states, an EP spokesman in Brussels said: “It will be a good thing if the sixth Maltese MEP adapts to the new job”.
Many EP observers are critical of this deal. They are suggesting that the 18 new observers might not become MEPs at all if the Lisbon Treaty, the legal protocol or Croatia’s eventual accession treaty does not materialise. At the same time, the report says that the observers would be costing EU taxpayers an extra €7.2 million annually in salaries and perks for just following what was going on.
Malta will elect five MEPs in June with the runner-up eventually taking up the sixth seat.
According to political party polls, The Times reports, the sixth seat will most probably go to the Labour Party, which is expected to win four out of the six MEP seats. The PN is expected to retain the two seats won in 2004.
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