European Parliament – The Basics
The European Parliament is one of the 3 main institutions involved in the creation of European law. The others are the European Commission and the European Council.
The 1997 Amsterdam Treaty gave the European Parliament an increased role in policy-making, although its influence is still relatively small compared to the Council and Commission.
In the EU’s unique institutional set-up:
- the EU’s broad priorities are set by the European Council, which brings together national and EU-level leaders
- directly elected MEPs like Molly represent European citizens in the European Parliament
- the interests of the EU as a whole are promoted by the European Commission, whose members are appointed by national governments
- Governments defend their own country’s national interests in the Council of the European Union.
Directly elected by EU voters every 5 years, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) represent the people. Parliament is one of the EU’s main law-making institutions, along with the Council of the European Union (‘the Council’).
Role of the European Parliament
The European Parliament has three main roles:
- debating and passing European laws, with the Council
- scrutinising other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, to make sure they are working democratically
- debating and adopting the EU’s budget, with the Council.
Parliament exercises influence over other European institutions in several ways:
- When a new Commission is appointed, its 28 members – one from each EU country – cannot take up office until Parliament has approved them. If the Members of the European Parliament disapprove of a nominee, they can reject the entire slate.
- Parliament can also call on the Commission to resign during its period in office. This is called a ‘motion of censure’.
- Parliament keeps check on the Commission by examining reports it produces and by questioning Commissioners. Its committees play an important part here.
- MEPs look at petitions from citizens and sets up committees of inquiry.
- When national leaders meet for European Council summits, Parliament gives its opinion on the topics on the agenda.
The number of MEPs for each country is roughly proportionate to its population. No country can have fewer than 6 or more than 96 and the total number cannot exceed 751 (750 plus the President). MEPs are grouped by political affiliation, not by nationality. Molly is a member of the Green Group in the European Parliament.
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 (‘plenary sessions’) take place in Strasbourg and in Brussels. Committee meetings are held in Brussels.
Court of Justice of the European Union – this interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries.
European Court of Auditors – this audits EU finances with an aim to improve EU financial management and report on the use of public funds.