European Parliament Brussels

Until now, seats in the European Parliament have been allocated by political bargaining. A fairer way has been devised by an international panel of mathematicians, as described in a report released by the University of Cambridge this week.

I am delighted that Cambridge maths can come to the aid of European politics.

Mr Andrew Duff, Rapporteur for the Constitutional Affairs Committee

The report, which was commissioned by the European Parliament, recommends a formula that guarantees every Member State a minimum of six seats, with proportional allocation up to the maximum of 96 seats. Three small States - Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus - receive the minimum number of six seats, and the biggest State, Germany, receives the maximum number of 96.

For current Member States, the new formula would result in France, UK, Italy, Spain, Poland and Estonia increasing their allocation, and 15 countries reducing their allocation by up to four seats each.

This is the unanimous recommendation of a panel of experts in mathematics and public policy from seven different European universities led by Professor Geoffrey Grimmett from Cambridge's Statistical Laboratory.

The recommendations follow an invitation by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament to Professor Grimmett and colleagues to determine a mathematical formula that would "eliminate the political bartering which has characterised the distribution of seats so far".

"The formula has to be durable, transparent and impartial to politics," explained Professor Grimmett. "It also needs to observe degressive proportionality, whereby the greater the population of a State, the more citizens per Member are represented."

Mr Andrew Duff, Rapporteur for the Constitutional Affairs Committee, has welcomed the report as "an unambiguous recommendation that will help Europe on the path to fairer allocations for both Member States and European Citizenry. I am delighted that Cambridge maths can come to the aid of European politics." Mr Duff has been a Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament since 1999, representing the East of England.

In total the European Parliament must be no greater than 751, with each of the 27 Member States having a minimum of six seats and a maximum of 96 seats. According to the report, the new 'Cambridge Compromise' formula allocates a base of five seats to each State, with the remainder allocated proportionally to population, subject to the maximum of 96. Calculated with rounding upwards of fractional allocations, this guarantees a minimum of six seats to every State.

The panel has recommended that attention be given to how the minimum should decrease in the light of future accessions to the European Union, and also that the functioning of the maximum be reviewed prior to future apportionments.

Finally, the report recommends that Eurostat be asked to review the methods used by Member States in calculating their populations.

The panel met in January 2011 at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge. Its members were from the University of Augsburg (Germany), École Polytechnique (Paris, France), University of Granada (Spain), Jagiellonian University (Kraków, Poland), University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and the Universities of Cambridge and Aberdeen.

The full report is available from

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