It seems that the European Parliament can decide on its own how to distribute the seats amongst the various member states:
The Treaty of Lisbon therefore leaves it to the European Parliament to propose its own distribution of seats, but lays down the basic rules under which that distribution is to take place:
- the maximum number of MEPs is set at 751, including the President of the Parliament;
- the minimum threshold of seats per Member State is set at six MEPs, to ensure that all major political movements have a chance to be represented, even for the least populous Member States;
- the maximum threshold of seats per Member State is set at 96;
- the distribution of seats is to be based on the principle of “degressive proportionality”. In other words, the more populous a State, the more MEPs it has and the larger the number of inhabitants represented by an MEP.
It seems they’re basically just deciding on the number of seats through negotiations. There have been suggestions to use the square root of population figures instead, but that results in some rather drastic differences.
However, I have now come up with a very elegant formula, namely round(0.00003892p0.8) + 5, where p is the population. This formula results in seat allocations that are very similar to those agreed by the European Parliament on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty:
Many countries end up with exactly the same number of seats as before, including Malta, Sweden, Greece and France; others gain a few, such as Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain, while the losers include Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy and Germany. Because all the lists include both small and large countries, I doubt it will be possible to create a significantly better formula.
Obviously, the constant (0.00003892) has been chosen to make the number of seats add up to 751. When the population figures are updated, or when new countries join, the constant will have to be updated to make the total equal to 751 again (the interested reader can use “goal seek” in Open Office or Excel to do this).
If the European Parliament want to use my formula, they are welcome do so free of charge! 🙂