You are visiting the former website of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Croatia.

Following Croatia's accession to the EU, the Delegation closed its doors on 30 June 2013 while a new institution - the European Commission Representation - has opened on 1 July. Please note that the content of this website has not been updated since that date, but it will stay accesible online for a certain period of time.

For updated information please visit European Commission Representation website.

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European Parliament

The European Parliament is the only directly-elected body of the European Union. Currently the European Parliament boasts 754 MEPs but this will be increased to 766 once Croatia joins in July. After next year's elections, this number will have be reduced to 751, as determined by the Lisabon Treaty. The MEPs are elected once every five years by voters right across the Member States of the European Union.

European Parliament in generalThe 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.

The work of the European Parliament is important because in many policy areas, decisions on new European laws are made jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which represents Member States.The European Parliament plays an active role in drafting legislation which has an impact on the daily lives of its citizens: for example, on environmental protection, consumer rights, equal opportunities, transport, and the free movement of workers, capital services and goods.

The European Parliament also has joint power with the European Council over the annual budget of the European Union.

Most of Parliament's in-depth work is done in specialised committees that prepare reports that will later be voted on in the plenary.

The Parliament's rules of procedure provide a detailed framework for the Parliament at work. Being a representative of all European citizens, the Parliement's multilingualism has become one of its most important aspects.

Parliamentary documents are published in all the official languages of the EU and every MEP has the right to speak in the official language of their choice.

The President of the European Parliament is Martin Schulz. His mandate expires by mid 2014.

 

Powers and functions of the European Parliament

Legislative power

The European Parliament shares legislative power equally with the Council of the European Union. This means it is empowered to adopt European laws (directives, regulations etc,). It can accept, amend or reject the content of European legislation.

A Member of the European Parliament, working in one of the parliamentary committees, draws up a report on a proposal for a ‘legislative text’ presented by the European Commission, the only institution empowered to initiate legislation. The parliamentary committee votes on this report and, possibly, amends it. When the text has been revised and adopted in plenary, Parliament has adopted its position. This process is repeated one or more times, depending on the type of procedure and whether or not agreement is reached with the Council.

In the adoption of legislative acts, a distinction is made between the ordinary legislative procedure (codecision), which puts Parliament on an equal footing with the Council, and the special legislative procedures, which apply only in specific cases where Parliament has only a consultative role.

On certain questions (e.g. taxation) the European Parliament gives only an advisory opinion (the ‘consultation procedure’). In some cases the Treaty provides that consultation is obligatory, being required by the legal base, and the proposal cannot acquire the force of law unless Parliament has delivered an opinion. In this case the Council is not empowered to take a decision alone.

Parliament has a power of political initiative. It can ask the Commission to present legislative proposals for laws to the Council.

It plays a genuine role in creating new laws, since it examines the Commission’s annual programme of work and says which laws it would like to see introduced.

Budgetery procedure

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament now shares the power to decide on the entire annual budget of the EU with the Council of the European Union and it has the final say.

Parliament and Council decisions about annual expenditure and revenue must fall within the annual spending limits laid down in the EU's long-term financial plan, the Multiannual Financial Framework, negotiated once every seven years.

As a directly-elected institution representing EU taxpayers, the European Parliament exercises democratic oversight to make sure that the Commission and the other institutions deal properly with European funds.

The Parliament, on a recommendation from the Council of the European Union, decides whether to grant the discharge, i.e. final approval of how the budget for a specific year has been implemented.

Supervisory powers

The European Parliament has a range of supervisory and control powers. These allow it to exercise oversight over other institutions, to monitor the proper use of the EU budget and to ensure the correct implementation of EU law.

  • The European Parliament has the right to approve and dismiss the European Commission. Since 1994, commissioners-designate have been required to appear before an EP hearing. Under the Lisbon Treaty, EU heads of state propose a candidate for Commission President, taking into account the results of European elections. The candidate is elected by the EP. The EP can censure the Commission and ultimately dismiss it.
  • So far, none of the eight motions of censure brought before Parliament has been adopted. In 1999, the Santer Commission stepped down before Parliament forced its resignation. The EP ensures democratic control over the Commission, which regularly submits reports to Parliament including an annual report on EU activities and on the implementation of the budget. Once a year, the Commission President gives a State of the Union address to plenary. Parliament regularly invites the Commission to initiate new policies and the Commission is required to reply to oral and written questions from MEPs.
  • The President of the European Parliament has the right to speak at the start of each European Council, setting out Parliament's position on the subjects to be addressed by the heads of state and government. After each summit the President of the European Council presents a report to Parliament on the outcome.
  • At the beginning and end of each six-month presidency the President of the Council of the European Union discusses their programme with MEPs in plenary. MEPs can table written and oral questions to the Council and can ask it to initiate new policies.
  • Parliament can ask the Court of Justice to take action against the Commission or Council if they have acted in a way that is contrary to the spirit of EU law. Parliament, together with Council, can ask the Court of Justice to set up specialised courts. For example, the European Union Civil Service Tribunal was established in 2005 to deal with disputes between the EU and its civil service.
  • Parliament must be consulted before the President, Vice-President and Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB) are appointed by the European Council. The ECB President presents the bank's annual report in plenary and takes part in a regular monetary dialogue with the Economics Committee.
  • Parliament elects the European Ombudsman. The Ombudsman reports back to the European Parliament and presents an annual report to MEPs. The Ombudsman may be dismissed by the Court of Justice at the request of Parliament in exceptional circumstances. The Ombudsman can start inquiries on his own initiative.

Relations with national parliaments

The European Parliament keeps the Member States’ national parliaments regularly informed of its activities.

The European Parliament committees regularly invite members of the national parliaments to their meetings to discuss, inter alia, new Commission legislative proposals.

Together with the Parliaments of the Member States holding the EU Council Presidency, the European Parliament organizes each semester a Joint Parliamentary Meeting to debate major political issues on the EU agenda.

 

European Parliament under the Lisabon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty gives the European Parliament more power to shape Europe than ever before. Along with more power, comes more responsibility vis-à-vis citizens, national parliaments and the European Union.

Every new EU treaty has increased the European Parliament's legislative power. The Lisbon Treaty now places Parliament on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers in deciding on the vast majority of EU laws.

  • More powers

The Lisbon Treaty makes the European Parliament a stronger lawmaker by bringing over 40 new fields within the "co-decision" procedure, under which Parliament has equal rights with the Council. These areas include agriculture, energy security, immigration, justice and home affairs, health and structural funds.

Parliament gains a bigger role in setting budgets, as the old distinction between "compulsory" and "non-compulsory" expenditure is abolished. Parliament will decide on the entire EU budget together with the Council.

MEPs will also have to give their consent to a whole range of international agreements negotiated by the Union, in areas such as international trade.

  • More responsibility

More power means more responsibility. With this increased legislative power, Parliament's decisions will, more than ever, directly affect the daily lives of Europe's citizens. Parliament shall, in all its activities, fully respect the fundamental rights of EU citizens, in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.MEPs will have a new role in relations with the other institutions of the EU. From now on, results of elections to the European Parliament will be directly linked to the choice of candidate for the President of the European Commission. The whole Commission, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, needs Parliament's approval to take office.Lastly, the Lisbon Treaty gives Parliament a new right to propose treaty changes.

 

Voting in European Parliament elections

Elections are held every five years, and every EU citizen who is registered as a voter is entitled to vote.

Each Member State decides on the form its election will take, but follows identical democratic groundrules: equality of the sexes and a secret ballot. In all Member States, the voting age is 18, with the exception of Austria, where it is 16. European elections are already governed by a number of common principles: direct universal suffrage, proportional representation and a five-year renewable term.

In some EU Member States voting is compulsory, such as Belgium, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Greece, and in Italy it is a civic obligation, but without penalty for those who do not vote.1

Since 1979, when Europeans voted for their MEPs for the first time, the EU average turnout at the European elections has fallen steadily, from 61.99% in 1979 to 43% in 2009. Despite this, and the apparent fall-away of confidence in the European institutions, Europeans believe that the three best ways of making their voices heard by EU decision-makers are:

  1. Voting in European elections (57%);
  2. Through a European citizens’ initiative (29%); and
  3. Writing to their MEP (19%).2

Average turnout at the European elections (1979- 2009)

 

Members of the European Parliament

When the Lisbon treaty was being negotiated, it was decided to put a cap on the total number of MEPs to prevent the European Parliament growing indefinitely every time a new member state joins the EU. This is why the treaty sets a number of restrictions:

  • The maximum number of MEPs is 750 plus the president
  • The maximum number of MEPs per country is 96
  • The minimum number of MEPs per country is 6
  • The division of seats should be according to degressive proportionality, meaning the more citizens a member sate has, the more seats it will get, but also the more citizens each MEP will represent. So MEPs from smaller countries represent fewer people than their colleagues from larger states.

The allocation of seats is also being adjusted to take into account changes in the population of member states. While some got bigger, others got smaller.

MEPs divide their time between Brussels, Strasbourg and their constituencies. In Brussels they attend meetings of the parliamentary committees and political groups, and additional plenary sittings. In Strasbourg they attend 12 plenary sittings. In parallel with these activities they must also, of course, devote time to their constituencies.

The new Statute for Members of the European Parliament entered into force on 14 July 2009. The new Statute makes the terms and conditions of MEPs' work more transparent and introduces a common salary for all Members paid from the EU budget.

 

Belgium

22

Romania

33

Bulgaria

18

Luxembourg

6

Czech Republic

22

Hungary

22

Denmark

13

Malta

6

Germany

99

Netherlands

26

Estonia

6

Austria

19

Greece

22

Poland

51

Spain

54

Portugal

22

France

74

Slovenia

8

Ireland

12

Slovakia

13

Italy

73

Finland

13

Cyprus

6

Sweden

20

Latvia

9

United Kingdom

73

Lithuania

12

 

 

 

Distribution of men and women

 

Political groups

The Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups – they are not organised by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament. 25 Members are needed to form a political group, and at least one-quarter of the Member States must be represented within the group. Members may not belong to more than one political group.

There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament. Each takes care of its own internal organisation by appointing a chair (or two co-chairs in the case of some groups), a bureau and a secretariat.

The places assigned to Members in the Chamber are decided by political affiliation, from left to right, by agreement with the group chairmen.

Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.

The position adopted by the political group is arrived at by discussion within the group. No Member can be forced to vote in a particular way.

Political group

Abbreviation

No. of seat

Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)

EPP

270

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament

PES

190

Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

ALDE

85

Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance

Greens/EFA

59

European Conservatives and Reformists Group

ECR

54

Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left

GUE/NGL

34

Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group

EFD

35

Non-attached

NA

27

 

Citizens participation

Petitions

One of the fundamental rights of European citizens: Any citizen of the European Union, or resident in a Member State, may, individually or in association with others, submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the European Union's fields of activity and which affects them directly. Any company, organisation or association with its headquarters in the European Union may also exercise this right of petition, which is guaranteed by the Treaty.

A petition may take the form of a complaint or a request and may relate to issues of public or private interest.

The petition may present an individual request, a complaint or observation concerning the application of EU law or an appeal to the European Parliament to adopt a position on a specific matter. Such petitions give the European Parliament the opportunity of calling attention to any infringement of a European citizen's rights by a Member State or local authorities or other institution.

Who can submit a petition, and on what subjects?

You can submit a petition if you are:

  • a citizen of the European Union,
  • a resident in a European Union Member State,
  • a member of an association, company, organisation (natural or legal person) with its headquarters in a European Union Member State.

The subject of the petition must be concerned with issues of European Union interest or responsibility such as:

  • your rights as a European citizen as set out in the Treaties,
  • environmental matters,
  • consumer protection,
  • free movement of persons, goods and services, internal market,
  • employment issues and social policy,
  • recognition of professional qualifications,
  • other problems related to the implementation of EU law.

Important Note: Requests for information only are not dealt with by the Committee on Petitions, neither are general comments on EU policy.

The petition must be written in one of the official languages of the European Union.

European Ombudsman

If you are not satisfied with the way the EU institutions have treated you, the European Ombudsman may be able to help. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the institutions and bodies of the European Union, including the European Commission, the Council of the EU, the European Parliament, the Committee of Regions, the Economic and Social Committee and all of EU agencies. The European Ombudsman's offices are in the European Parliament's buildings in Strasbourg.

European citizens' initiative

As of 1 April 2012, EU citizens have a new tool allowing them to participate in shaping EU policy. Put in place by the Lisbon Treaty, the citizens' initiative allows 1 million citizens from at least a quarter of the EU Member States to ask the European Commission to propose legislation in areas that fall within its competence. The organisers of a citizens' initiative - a citizens' committee composed of at least 7 EU citizens, resident in at least 7 different Member States - have 1 year to collect the necessary support. Signatures must be certified by the competent authorities in each Member States. Organisers of successful initiatives will participate in a hearing at the European Parliament. The Commission will have 3 months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it.

 

 

Access the European Parliament

If you want to find out more about the organization, powers and activities of the European Parliament, you can contact the Citizens' Enquiry Service using the mailbox below.

If you wish to contact directly a Member of the European Parliament, refer the list of Members.

To obtain information about the right of petition to the European Parliament, see.

To participate in online discussions about current issues concerning the European Parliament, see the Parliament's social media channels.

You can also ask questions about the European Union using the EuropeDirect service by email or telephone.

To visit the European Parliament, contact the Visitors Service.

To find out about job opportunities with the European Parliament, visit the European Personnel Selection Office website.

To find out about traineeships with the European Parliament, contact the Traineeship office.

If you wish to access documents produced or received by the EP since 3 December 2001, please consult the website of the Register:

To consult archive documents concerning the European Parliament and its history, please click on the following link:

 

Links

 

1 Source: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/.....roduct_code=TSDGO310

2 Source: European Parliament Eurobarometer, 2012, Two years to go to the 2014 European elections, (EB/EP 77.4).

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You are visiting the former website of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Croatia.

Following Croatia's accession to the EU, the Delegation closed its doors on 30 June 2013 while a new institution - the European Commission Representation - has opened on 1 July. Please note that the content of this website has not been updated since that date, but it will stay accesible online for a certain period of time.

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