Launch of the Geographical Representation in EU Leadership Observatory

Timeline of the leadership of European entities

New Geographical Representation in EU Leadership Observatory highlights lack of representation of Central and Eastern European citizens in EU leadership.

A report by European Democracy Consulting analyses data on EU office-holders from 1952 to 2020 and reveals the extent of the discrepancies in representation among the EU’s sub-regions. The report calls on EU institutions, in particular the European Council and Commission, to take action to ensure a fairer representation for all European citizens.

On 25 January 2021, European Democracy Consulting launched its new Geographical Representation in EU Leadership Observatory. The Observatory follows an extensive survey of 72 entities — EU institutions, advisory bodies, agencies and other bodies — , 89 positions, and close to 500 office-holders since 1952. The Observatory will be updated annually.

This Observatory analyses the level of geographical representation among the European Union’s leadership from two complementary perspectives: the number of leadership appointments received by each region and the cumulated mandate duration of office-holders stemming from these regions. The regions are Western, Southern, Northern, Eastern and Central Europe. After reviewing total figures and their breakdown by type of entity, the Observatory further analyses the survey’s results by focusing on recent years, by accounting for regions’ number of Member States and populations, and by looking at non-founding Member States’ first years of membership.

In particular, the Observatory confirms the continued dominance of Western and Southern Europe over the Union’s leadership. Since the EU’s founding, Western Europe has received over 60% of all appointments and 65% of cumulated mandate durations. Since the 2004 enlargement, Western and Southern Europe have captured a combined 90% of appointments and 95% of mandate durations for EU institutions, the Union’s most prominent and influential positions. Although a distant third, Northern Europe far exceeds its fair share of representation: with only 4% of the EU’s population, the three Northern European Member States have received over 50% of appointments for the EU’s independent bodies since 2004 when adjusting for population.

By contrast, Central and Eastern Europe have remained outliers from their accession onwards — each receiving around 2.5% of all appointments and 2% of mandate durations. Focusing on recent years of accounting for populations barely improves their standing, and the regions remain far below the 20% equality mark. Their representation also centres on EU agencies — the least prominent appointments — making up over 60% and over 80% for Eastern and Central Europe respectively.

Based on these findings, the European Council and Commission must acknowledge the lack of proper geographical representation in the EU’s leadership, its negative impact on EU cohesion, and their own central role in improving this situation. Secondly, they must analyse the extent of this lack of representation and establish clear goals and targets. Based on these goals, they must define bold actions, including data collection, affirmative action policies, and an improved selection and retention process. Finally, they must track progress publicly through a yearly review.

European Democracy Consulting hopes this Observatory will contribute to improving citizens’ representation in our common institutions over time. As always, public scrutiny and clear lines of responsibility, in particular of the European Council and Commission, are essential in ensuring that proper representation is achieved. We aim for this Geographical Representation in EU Leadership Observatory to be a significant and useful first step in this direction.

Founder of European Democracy Consulting 🇪🇺 | President of 📜 | Founding Member of Mieux Voter 🗳