European Parliament

Institution elected by the citizens

The parliament has existed from the very beginning of European integration and its significance continues to grow. Its most important milestone came in 1979 when the first direct elections to the Parliament took place. The elections granted the European Parliament the required political legitimacy, and the original advisory Assembly gradually acquired more influence.
The Maastricht and the Amsterdam Treaties transformed it in the nineties into a law-making body. The European Parliament is the sole EU institution that meets and deliberates in public. The parliamentary deliberations as well as committee meetings are simultaneously translated into all 23 official languages of the European Union (EU). The deliberations, opinions and resolutions of the Parliament are periodically published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

One Parliament, three locations

The European Parliament works in three different locations, each in a different Member State, i.e., in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The official seat is in Strasbourg where the MEPs meet for one week per month in a plenary session. Besides this, the MEPs also deliberate in twenty standing parliamentary committees in Brussels. The seat of the president of the European Parliament and the General Secretariat is in Luxembourg.

Members of the European Parliament

The Parliament is presided over by the President and 14 Vice-Presidents. Since January 2007 the post of president has been held by Hans-Gert Pöttering. There are 785 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) at this moment. The MEPs are elected by direct universal suffrage for five-year terms. The electoral system for the Parliament is not uniform, as it differs according to the traditions and constitutional regulations of the individual Member States. The MEPs converge into several political groups within the Parliament according to their political persuasion, i.e., not according to their nationality. They perform their mandate independently – this means that they are not bound by the political guidelines of the party for which they were elected, or by the political group with which they are associated. The mandate of the MEP is incompatible with any other offices in other EU institutions.

Powers of the Parliament

The European Parliament has three basic powers – legislative, budgetary and control of the executive. In contrast with the national parliaments of the Member States, the European Parliament has only limited legislative powers. Currently it may participate in lawmaking within the procedures of consultations, cooperation procedure, assent procedure and co‑decision procedure. Approval of the Union budget, which is obtained through a special procedure, requires the assent of the Parliament. The control powers of the Parliament lie in the overseeing of Union activities and approval of appointments into the European Commission and other bodies. In order to perform these powers temporary investigation committees are usually set up. The Parliament may also interpellate the Council of the European Union and the European Commission.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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