The European Parliament is one of the institutions of the European Union which represents the citizens of the member states. As the only directly elected institution within the European Union, the European Parliament has three main powers as legislative power, budgetary power, and supervisory power.
Article 14 of the Lisbon Treaty describes the functions of the European Parliament as:
“The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.” [i]
Beginning in 1979, Elections are held in all member states every 5 years to elect members of the European Parliament (MEPs).[ii] There are 705 seats in the European Parliament. Seats are allocated on the basis of the population of the relevant country. For example, France, Germany, and Italy have more than 70 MEPs each, while Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg, and Malta each have fewer than 7.[iii] These MEPs sit in different political groups. The European Parliament represents the EU citizens, that’s why members of the European Parliament are grouped by their political affinity, not nationality. There are 7 Political Groups, while some of the MEPs do not belong to any Political Group, in the European Parliament.
List of Political Groups of the European Parliament:
Renew Europe Group (98 MEPs)
Identity and Democracy Group (76 MEPs)
Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (40 MEPs)
(there are also 29 non-Inscrit MEPs who do not sit in one of the recognized political groups)
Parliament uses all 24 of the EU’s official languages in its daily business and all are of equal status, with all documents being published in every language and MEPs having the right to speak and work in their own language, with provisions made for them to do so.[iv] The Parliament sits in Strasbourg, but there is a Secretariat based in Luxembourg and certain sessions and committee meetings take place in Brussels to facilitate contact with the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.[v]
The President of the European Parliament and its 14 vice presidents are elected for a renewable term of two and a half years, which is half the lifetime of one Parliament.[vi] The President oversees the work of the Parliament, takes part in parliamentary debates, and represents the Parliament in dealings with other EU institutions and the rest of the world.[vii] The current President of the European Parliament is David Maria SASSOLI, elected in July 2019.
The Members of the European Parliament are divided into some standing committees. The European Parliament has 20 standing committees (e.g. Foreign Affairs, Budgetary Control, Fisheries) and 2 subcommittees. These committees instruct legislative proposals through the adoption of reports, propose amendments to Plenary, and appoint a negotiation team to conduct negotiations with the Council on EU legislation.[viii] Committees meet once or twice a month in Brussels. The committees draw up, amend, and adopt legislative proposals and own-initiative reports. They consider European Commission and European Council proposals and, where necessary, draw up reports to be presented to the plenary assembly.[ix]
The consent of the European Parliament is required before any country wants to join or decides to leave the European Union. It is also required to the consent of the European Parliament when International Agreements enter into by the European Union with the third countries. As the only directly elected institution within the European Union, the European Parliament is a form of representative democracy which is clearly stated in Article 10(1) of the Treaty of the European Union.