Dissatisfaction with the European Union is on the rise, as Sunday’s elections in Italy showed. Now, even some mathematicians are mad at Brussels. In a paper uploaded recently to the arXiv server, Friedrich Pukelsheim of the University of Augsburg in Germany and Geoffrey Grimmett of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom decry the European Parliament’s reallocation of seats from the departing United Kingdom to other EU member states.
The duo complains that members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have ignored their own long-standing aim to assign seats using a clean, transparent formula, instead reverting to a more familiar approach: bargaining behind closed doors. That is bad news for European democracy, the mathematicians say, because it means that midsize countries are overrepresented in the Parliament. In their paper, they bemoan what they see as MEPs’ failure to explain how they converted population figures into seats. The Parliament, the pair writes, has missed an opportunity “to proceed from the dark ages to an era of enlightenment.”
A formula “pleases us, the academics, because it is a systematic way of responding to inevitable population changes,” Pukelsheim tells Science. “But it is frowned upon by politicians.”