The European Parliament (EP) is elected by the citizens of the European Union to represent their interests. Its origins go back to the 1950s and the founding treaties, and since 1979 its members have been directly elected by the people they represent.
Elections are held every five years, and every EU citizen who is registered as a voter is entitled to vote. Parliament thus expresses the democratic will of the Union´s citizens (500 million people), and it represents their interests in discussions with the other EU institutions. The present parliament has 754 members from all 27 EU countries. Nearly one third of them are women.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) do not sit in national blocks, but in seven Europe-wide political groups. Between them, they represent all views on European integration, from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Eurosceptic.
In January 2012, Martin Schulz was elected President of the European Parliament.
Number of seats per political group:
|Political group||Abbreviation||No. of seat|
|European People´s Party (Christian Democrats)||EPP||270|
|Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe||ALDE||85|
|Greens/European Free Alliance||Greens/EFA||59|
|European Conservatives and Reformists Group||ECR||54|
|European United Left - Nordic Green Left||GUE/NGL||34|
|Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group||EFD||35|
Number of seats per country
(in alphabetical order according to the country’s name in its own language).
Where is Parliament based?
The European Parliament has three places of work: Brussels (Belgium), Luxembourg and Strasbourg (France).
Luxembourg is home to the administrative offices (the ‘General Secretariat’). Meetings of the whole Parliament, known as ‘plenary sessions’, take place in Strasbourg and sometimes in Brussels. Committee meetings are also held in Brussels.
What does Parliament do?
Parliament has three main roles:
- Passing European laws – jointly with the Council in many policy areas. The fact that the EP is directly elected by the citizens helps guarantee the democratic legitimacy of European law.
- Parliament exercises democratic supervision over the other EU institutions, and in particular the Commission. It has the power to approve or reject the nomination of commissioners, and it has the right to censure the Commission as a whole.
- The power of the purse. Parliament shares with the Council authority over the EU budget and can therefore influence EU spending. At the end of the procedure, it adopts or rejects the budget in its entirety.
How is the Parliament´s work organised?
Parliament´s work is divided into two main stages:
- Preparing for the plenary session. This is done by the MEPs in the various parliamentary committees that specialise in particular areas of EU activity. The issues for debate are also discussed by the political groups.
- The plenary session itself. Plenary sessions are normally held in Strasbourg (one week per month) and sometimes in Brussels (two days only). At these sessions, Parliament examines proposed legislation and votes on amendments before coming to a decision on the text as a whole.
Other items on the agenda may include Council or Commission ‘communications’ or questions about what is going on in the European Union or the wider world.
Official Website: The European Parliament