The European Parliament

The European Parliament (EP) together with the Council is the legislator of the European Union. Legislation is enacted jointly by these two institutions primarily within the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure (discussed later). The EP has developed from a more or less advisory organ to gain more and more power at every revision of the Treaties. It can today in many respects be regarded as an equal partner with the Council in the legislative process. The EP and the Council also share power over the EU budget. As mentioned, the EP plays an important role in the election of the President of the Commission. It can even force the Commission, through a vote of no confidence, to resign. The Commission is thus dependent on the support of the Parliament.

According to Article 14 TEU, the EP shall be composed of representatives of the Union’s citizens. This corresponds to the requirement in Article 10 TEU that the functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy and that citizens shall be directly represented at Union level in the EP. Members of the Parliament are directly elected in the same way as to a national parliament. They are not bound by any government’s instructions and do not represent the national parliaments. Instead, they sit in one of seven multinational political groups. These include the group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. Originally, national parliaments elected members of the EP from among their own members. This procedure, which from the outset was intended to be temporary, was replaced in 1979 by direct election.

National parliaments, however, have certain defined roles in the EU. They are entitled to be informed by the other EU institutions. They participate in the interparliamentary cooperation between national parliaments and the EP.2° They also fulfil a function as a reviewer of compliance with the subsidiarity principle.21

The EP has 751 members, including the president (Art 14 (2) TEU). When not otherwise stated in the Treaties, the EP takes decisions by absolute majority, that is, more than half of the votes cast (Art 231 TFEU).

The Parliament has its secretariat in Luxembourg; its sessions are held in Strasbourg, and committee meetings in Brussels. This obviously inefficient and costly arrangement has attracted much criticism, but has not yet been changed since a change requires the consent of all Member States.

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