For many years, someone who was simultaneously a member both of a national parliament and of the European Parliament was said to hold a ‘dual mandate’. Until the first European elections in June 1979, all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) held a dual mandate automatically, in that they were nominated from, and as members of, national parliaments. However, even in the 1970s, the growth in the Parliament’s activities was already making the demands of holding the two jobs in tandem very demanding, and although there was initially a significant carry-over of dual-mandate MEPs into the directly-elected Parliament, the proportion dwindled rapidly thereafter. Whereas there were 105 ‘dual mandaters’ in 1979, the figure had fallen to 34 in 1989, and to only eight by 1999.
The dual mandate was not prohibited under the original version of the European Elections Act of 1976, although it was contrary to the national electoral law of at least three member states (Belgium, Greece and Spain). Some political parties also chose to debar it under their own internal rules for nominating candidates. In September 2002, the Act was modified to outlaw the dual mandate, with effect from July 2004. An additional five-year transitional period was allowed for members of the British and Irish parliaments, where there are (wholly or partially) nominated upper chambers.
Some argued for the dual mandate on the grounds that it promoted contact between the European Parliament and national parliaments, sensitizing each to the other’s concerns and easing rivalry between institutions. It also allowed prominent figures in national politics to become involved (however superficially) in European politics, which could, in turn, raise the level of public interest in the Parliament, especially at the time of European elections. In France, many party leaders served briefly as MEPs on this basis. Equally, however, the steady increase in the degree of expertise and commitment required to be an effective MEP made the dual mandate practically impossible in all but exceptional cases.
A dual-mandate MEP did not draw two full salaries, although he or she was able to take advantage of staff and other allowances for both jobs. In the United Kingdom, for example, a dual mandate MP and MEP was entitled to an additional one-third of his or her House of Commons salary. (In all member states except the Netherlands, the two salaries were the same, and they remained so until the new Members’ Statute took effect in July 2009).
Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012
Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry