What is it?
The European Parliament presents itself as “the Voice of the People”, as it is the only EU institution that is elected directly. The European Parliament is elected for five years (although the term of certain MEPs can be shorter depending on the national rules of designation of such MEPs) and every EU citizen is entitled to vote and to stand as candidate, wherever they live in the EU.
Where is it?
The European Parliament is officially seated in Strasbourg, France, even though MEPs are only there one week per month, for the plenary sessions. The remaining three weeks, they are more often in Brussels, notably for Committee meetings as well as Political Group meetings.
The administrative offices of the ¨Parliament (the General Secretariat) are located in Luxembourg.
What does it do?
The Parliament’s work is basically split up in two stages: the preparation of the plenary sessions, whereby issues are discussed within specialised Committees and Political Groups, and the plenaries themselves, during which the Parliament votes.
The European Parliament’s tasks are three-fold:
- The Parliament is co-legislator with the Council in many policy areas, even though the right of initiative in terms of legislation lies with the Commission.
- The Parliament has a democratic supervision right over the EU institutions, and mainly over the European Commission, whereby it needs to approve each new Commission and Commissioner, and can revoke a Commission as a whole through a motion of censure.
- The Parliament, jointly with the Council, must approve the annual EU budget and the budget does not come into force until it has been signed by the President of the Parliament. They must also “grant a discharge”, i.e. approve the way in which the budget was spent every year.
Good to know
MEPs are first and foremost organised by political group. There are seven Europe-wide political groups, ranging from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Eurosceptic, and from extreme left to extreme right.
Within each political group, MEPs do however organise themselves by national delegation (especially the larger ones, such as France, UK, Germany), and in some cases the national solidarities can extend beyond party lines.
The Parliament, aside from its formal powers, can also exercise quite some pressure through the adoption of non-binding resolutions and Committee hearings, and general interaction with the press.