Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

European Parliament (EP)

Source: Europa Nu.

The European Parliament is the EU's law-making body. It is directly elected by EU voters every 5 years.

What does the Parliament do?

The Parliament has 3 main roles:

Legislative

  • Deciding on international agreements
  • Deciding on enlargements
  • Reviewing the Commission's work programme and asking it to propose legislation

Supervisory

  • Democratic scrutiny of all EU institutions
  • Electing the Commission President and approving the Commission as a body. Possibility of voting a motion of censure, obliging the Commission to resign
  • Granting discharge, i.e. approving the way EU budgets have been spent
  • Examining citizens' petitions and setting up inquiries
  • Questioning Commission and Council
  • Election observations

Budgetary

  • Establishing the EU budget, together with the Council
  • Approving the EU's long-term budget, the "Multiannual Financial Framework"

Composition

The number of MEPs for each country is roughly proportionate to its population, but this is by degressive proportionality: no country can have fewer than 6 or more than 96 MEPs and the total number cannot exceed 751 (750 plus the President). MEPs are grouped by political affiliation, not by nationality.

The President represents Parliament to other EU institutions and the outside world and gives the final go-ahead to the EU budget.

How does the Parliament work?

Parliament's work comprises two main stages:

  • Committees - to prepare legislation.

    The Parliament numbers 20 committees and two subcommittees, each handling a particular policy area. The committees examine proposals for legislation, and MEPs and political groups can put forward amendments or propose to reject a bill. These issues are also debated within the political groups.

  • Plenary sessions – to pass legislation.

    This is when all the MEPs gather in the chamber to give a final vote on the proposed legislation and the proposed amendments. Normally held in Strasbourg for four days a month, but sometimes there are additional sessions in Brussels.