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This rather old article argues about EU countries actual influence within the EU:

Germany is over-represented in the European Parliament, giving it a correspondingly high potential to influence EU policies, while other countries are at disadvantage, according to a recent report by a Romanian think-tank. EURACTIV Romania reports.

Qvorum, a non-partisan think-tank which aims to stimulate citizens’ and social partners’ involvement in the policymaking process, discovered that a number of countries have won privileged representation in the assembly’s governing bodies, while other nations are clearly under-represented.

Ten years have passed and I expect things to have changed. I am wondering if there is a more recent influence related article.

However, I am mainly interested in the causes of this difference in "influence". I expect that some objective facts such as population or GDP to be an important factor in influencing the number of representatives within an EU structure.

Question: How is number of representatives within EU structures computed?

  • @DenisdeBernardy - this covers the EU Parliament only, but it provides a great insight. So, one should expect that some countries having greater "influence" in EU politics "by design". – Alexei Apr 16 '19 at 7:13
  • Why "over-represented"? Only because germany has more seats than each other country? I (as a german) am under-represented because german citizens have less representatives per inhabitants. The EU parliament ist not some sort of senate. – ohno Apr 16 '19 at 12:16
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    The question does not make it clear, and all answerers so far have missed, that this is not about allocation of seats. It is about which countries have the most committee chairpeople, presidents/vice-presidents, party leaders, parliamentary officers, and so forth. It's a rather unusual way of looking at things, as one usually looks at which political parties have the the most committee chairpeople, presidents/vice-presidents, parliamentary officers, and so forth. – JdeBP Apr 16 '19 at 15:11
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    @Alexei A study from a Danish Think-Tank just came out that relates somewhat with the subject you've cited from the Romanian Think-Tank. I've added what I felt was the relevant information in my answer but you can find the paper here: Who is big in Brussels?. – armatita May 3 '19 at 8:24
  • @armatita - this is very interesting and much more recent, so more relevant. Thanks. – Alexei May 3 '19 at 8:25
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Note: you can see Article 15 of the TEU for the European Council, Article 19 for the Court of Justice, and different sections of the TFEU for the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors. It's fairly straightforward since it mostly requires a representative by member plus a president (or other similar positions). As so I'll focus on this answer on the EU parliament which has more complex (and "flexible") rules.


The allocation (apportionment) of seats in the EU parliament is decided by treaty following the rules exposed in Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union. Furthermore the actual composition is decided by the European Council.

Article 14

  1. The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.

  2. The European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens. They shall not exceed seven hundred and fifty in number, plus the President. Representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional, with a minimum threshold of six members per Member State. No Member State shall be allocated more than ninety-six seats. The European Council shall adopt by unanimity, on the initiative of the European Parliament and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the European Parliament, respecting the principles referred to in the first subparagraph.

  3. The members of the European Parliament shall be elected for a term of five years by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.

  4. The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.

To give a more practical example. Last year the European Council decided on the new rules of the parliament composition after the UK left the EU. The rules they choose are these:

Article 1

In the application of Article 14(2) TEU, the following principles shall be respected:

– the allocation of seats in the European Parliament is to fully utilise the minimum and maximum thresholds per Member State set by the TEU in order to reflect as closely as possible the sizes of the respective populations of the Member States,

– degressive proportionality is to be defined as follows: the ratio between the population and the number of seats of each Member State before rounding to whole numbers is to vary in relation to their respective populations in such a way that each Member of the European Parliament from a more populous Member State represents more citizens than each Member of the European Parliament from a less populous Member State and, conversely, that the larger the population of a Member State, the greater its entitlement to a large number of seats in the European Parliament,

– the allocation of seats in the European Parliament is to reflect demographic developments in the Member States

Just as a curiosity this would be the new allocation of seats in the EU parliament.

NOTE: this will likely not be followed considering the latest developments on Brexit. It's in this answer for illustration purposes only.

enter image description here


EDIT: In the web page EU institutions and bodies in brief you'll find the list of the several institutions within the EU. Some of those only have sparse influence on policy. I will not describe the selection process for all of those bodies but that document should put you on the right track should you wish to do so. Most of this answer will focus instead on the EU parliament with pointers to other EU major institutions.

In any case the list of bodies and institutions is the following:

  • European Parliament

  • European Council

  • Council of the European Union

  • European Commission

  • Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

  • European Central Bank (ECB)

  • European Court of Auditors (ECA)

  • European External Action Service (EEAS)

  • European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

  • European Committee of the Regions (CoR)

  • European Investment Bank (EIB)

  • European Ombudsman

  • European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS)

  • Interinstitutional bodies

For legislation (which I believe are the more relevant to your question since it directly relates to policy):

Law-making There are 3 main institutions involved in EU legislation:

  • the European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them;

  • the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the individual member countries. The Presidency of the Council is shared by the member states on a rotating basis.

  • the European Commission, which represents the interests of the Union as a whole.

For administration:

Two other institutions play vital roles:

  • the Court of Justice of the EU upholds the rule of European law

  • the Court of Auditors checks the financing of the EU's activities.

Interinstitutional bodies:

The EU has a number of other institutions and interinstitutional bodies that play specialised roles:

  • the European Central Bank is responsible for European monetary policy

  • the European External Action Service (EEAS) assists the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Federica Mogherini. She chairs the Foreign Affairs Council and conducts the common foreign and security policy, also ensuring the consistency and coordination of the EU's external action.

  • the European Economic and Social Committee represents civil society, employers and employees

  • the European Committee of the Regions represents regional and local authorities

  • the European Investment Bank finances EU investment projects and helps small businesses through the European Investment Fund

  • the European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration by EU institutions and bodies

  • the European Data Protection Supervisor safeguards the privacy of people’s personal data

  • the Publications Office publishes information about the EU

  • the European Personnel Selection Office recruits staff for the EU institutions and other bodies

  • the European School of Administration provides training in specific areas for members of EU staff

  • a host of specialised agencies and decentralised bodies handle a range of technical, scientific and management tasks

Furthermore you have positions related to smaller offices, or within EU political parties (which keep coming and going and almost certainly chose their own rules of selection).


EDIT (3, May, 2019): Regarding the influence of different members in the EU

Today a study reported by EUobserver and made by a Danish Europe Think Tank analyses the influence of EU members. The paper is named WHO IS BIG IN BRUSSELS?:

RESUME How come some small member states in the EU have more influence over policy-making than their size suggests they should have? This informal fact of EUcooperation is repeatedly insinuated by expert observers, surveys and scorecards, such as those by the European Council on Foreign Relations. Here, Sweden and the Netherlands, for instance, are believed to have more influence than more populous countries such as Italy or Romania. While the Franco-German duo may be the EU’s undisputed powerhouse, there is no linear relationship between size and influence over EU policy among the smaller member states.

I cannot fully subscribe to their methodology (the name of the paper might be bigger in scope than the study) but there are some interesting pointers. For example, and although France and Germany are by far the largest members, the staff number does not correlate totally with size with some small countries having large representations:

EU staff by member

Moreover they also built a map of the countries they consider over-represented, and under-represented:

EU representation by member (map)

Last but not least they make an analysis about the capacity of different members doing coalitions to achieve some objective in the EU:

The ECFR finds that Germany and France are more effective at building coalitions than any other member state. While they are assisted by their great size in sustaining a widespread perception within the Union that they are the most important partners in integration initiatives, the think tank also notes that France and Germany’s coalition building success is due to their uniquely high levels of interaction with their EU allies. This is a variable that is linked to the availability of resources at the perm-reps, and here Germany and France are by far the biggest in our survey.

In a similar vein we may speculate that staff numbers also contribute to explain the ECFR’s findings that, among the Nordic trio in the EU, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, Sweden contacts Finland much more ‘on European policy matters’ than it contacts Denmark, and Finland contacts Sweden, the Netherlands and Estonia more than it contacts Denmark. While Denmark’s influence may be lower than its neighbours due to its EU-opt-outs (on justice and home affairs, defence and the euro), it may also be part of the story that out of these countries, the Danish permrep is the only one to rank below its population rank. At least, its relatively small permanent representation, and short duration of secondments from most home ministries, do nothing to alleviate the possible loss of influence from the opt-outs that Denmark may be experiencing. In this respect, it is noteworthy from our figures that especially Slovenia appears to try to compensate for its small mission in Brussels by prioritising the presence of home ministry staff and by ensuring a longer duration of secondments.

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    This doesn't address the question though. It's not representation in parliament, but representation in "EU structures". That is to say, committees and government agencies. The claim is that Germany has more representation in leading such "structures" than their population would warrant. This becomes clearer if you read the linked article. – Brythan Apr 16 '19 at 23:31
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    @Brythan In the first paragraph of the answer I comment and link the documents that describe how the representatives for several of the EU "structures" are selected (TEU and TFEU), including some of the articles. Given the complexity of the selection for EU parliament I decide to focus on that. The article only vaguely explains how the Romanian think thank calculated its ranking. I would have to speculate and guess a lot to answer the question under those circumstances. Given the title question I would say my answer is adequate. But I'll add further documentation regarding other EU bodies. – armatita Apr 17 '19 at 10:31
  • You're still missing the point. The claim isn't that Germany has more representatives in parliament than its share of the population. The claim is that it has more leadership roles in parliament than its share of the population. How are those leadership roles selected? Consider this statement about the US: "California is overrepresented in House leadership positions." In that case, the explanation is that leadership positions are awarded by seniority and California has an unusually high share of highly partisan districts that send only Democrats to the House. – Brythan Apr 17 '19 at 17:43
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    @Brythan Very well. You apparently completely understood the question so please clarify me. What "leadership roles" exactly is the OP asking for? And for what institutions? I would also recommend changing the title question (and body, and tags) to accurately reflect that this question is in fact about the influence of Germany or any other members in EU "structures" (which I assumed were the big influential institutions, but I guess it can also be the communication manager of their Facebook page). – armatita Apr 18 '19 at 8:23
  • The last edit points to a study that tackles the exact issue I was looking for. – Alexei May 3 '19 at 8:27
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For the EC and the ECJ, the rule is straightforward: it's one appointment per member state.

For the EP, the general idea is to give similar representation to each country based on their population, with two twists:

  • Early on, smaller countries got a few bonus seats so larger countries (Germany, France, Italy at the time) couldn't simply band together and push them around. These bonus seats stuck around over time. (This is similar in spirit to what the Bundesrat does and it is called degressive proportionality.)

  • For political reasons, countries of similar size have traditionally been given the same number of seats. For instance France, Italy, and the UK (until 2014, when France got a bonus seat); or Spain and Poland; and so forth.

As to who chairs committees and the like, which is what the article seems to be looking at, what the whining is about beggars belief. The US equivalent would be to complain that CA, NY, FL, and TX are overrepresented in the US House. But that should come as no surprise given that they've more Reps to begin with. Who gets what seat in EP committees and such depends on how the MEPs want to manage their sausage factory. It simply happens that, as the most populous EU member, Germany also has the most MEPs. And in contrast with the UK and France for instance, they don't have a large swath of EU skeptics in a parliament controlled by a non-extremist coalition.

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    Note that this correctly implies that large countries are underrepresented on a vote per capita basis, in contrast to the quote in the original question. – henning -- reinstate Monica Apr 16 '19 at 11:21
  • its the Bundesrat not the Bundestag which got the fixed baseline amount per seats rule. (source: being from germany) – masterX244 Apr 16 '19 at 12:40
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    This doesn't address the question though. It's not representation in parliament, but representation in "EU structures". That is to say, committees and government agencies. The claim is that Germany has more representation in leading such "structures" than their population would warrant. This becomes clearer if you read the linked article. – Brythan Apr 16 '19 at 23:30
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    @Brythan: I'm not sure I agree. The article's first sentence is "Germany is over-represented in the European Parliament" -- which is silly if you look at the number of representatives. And if one looks at who chairs committees and the like, as the article seems to have done, it's akin to saying CA, NY, FL, and TX are overrepresented in the US House. That only depends on the MEPs themselves, and it should come as no surprise given that they've more MEPs to begin with. – Denis de Bernardy Apr 17 '19 at 2:38

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