40th Anniversary of the 1976 Act on Direct Elections to the European Parliament

19-10-2015

Between 7 and 10 of June, 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage were held, thus signalling the end of a long and arduous attempt to institute this new degree of democracy in the European Community. Indeed, the effort spanned two decades, with the first draft Convention for direct elections having been submitted by Fernand Dehousse in 1960. Direct elections to the European Parliament had been mandated in the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, Mr Dehousse's draft Convention had little effect, until in 1972, with a push for European Union, it was felt that the time had come to act on it. However, such a long period had lapsed that the draft needed updating. This task was entrusted to Schelto Patijn in 1973, and by January of 1975 a new draft Convention on direct elections to the European Parliament was submitted. Fearing that these efforts might again fall by the wayside, the Parliament sought to do what it could to push toward the implementation of the draft Convention. In the lead-up to, and following several Council meetings during 1975 and 1976, the European Parliament was disillusioned at the lack of Council action. After a concerted effort on the part of a majority of Parliament, the Council signed the draft Convention into an Act on 20 September 1976. While this was seen as a great achievement, considering the extent to which the European Parliament had to lobby, MEPs recognised that this was merely the beginning, for there were many outstanding issues regarding the organisation of direct elections still to be addressed. This briefing is accompanied by a compendium of archival material on the subject.

Between 7 and 10 of June, 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage were held, thus signalling the end of a long and arduous attempt to institute this new degree of democracy in the European Community. Indeed, the effort spanned two decades, with the first draft Convention for direct elections having been submitted by Fernand Dehousse in 1960. Direct elections to the European Parliament had been mandated in the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, Mr Dehousse's draft Convention had little effect, until in 1972, with a push for European Union, it was felt that the time had come to act on it. However, such a long period had lapsed that the draft needed updating. This task was entrusted to Schelto Patijn in 1973, and by January of 1975 a new draft Convention on direct elections to the European Parliament was submitted. Fearing that these efforts might again fall by the wayside, the Parliament sought to do what it could to push toward the implementation of the draft Convention. In the lead-up to, and following several Council meetings during 1975 and 1976, the European Parliament was disillusioned at the lack of Council action. After a concerted effort on the part of a majority of Parliament, the Council signed the draft Convention into an Act on 20 September 1976. While this was seen as a great achievement, considering the extent to which the European Parliament had to lobby, MEPs recognised that this was merely the beginning, for there were many outstanding issues regarding the organisation of direct elections still to be addressed. This briefing is accompanied by a compendium of archival material on the subject.