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You & European Parliament

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

This blog post is part of the series ‘You & EU Institutions’.

In our blog post series 'You & EU Institutions', we have already explored the importance of the history of the EU, the European Council, and the Council of the European Union. To continue shedding light on how you can influence the EU, let’s have a look at one of the most important EU institutions which connects the EU citizens and EU policy-making directly: the European Parliament.

What is the European Parliament?

The European Parliament (EP) is an important forum for political debate and decision-making at the EU level. Members of the European Parliament, so-called MEPs, are directly elected by EU citizens of all member states in democratic elections that run every 5 years. Since 1979 when the first EP elections took place, the EP's role has developed significantly, growing in importance from an only supervisory character into an institution with crucial influence on the EU's functioning.

What is the role of the European Parliament in the EU?

The role of the European Parliament is threefold:

  • First, MEPs represent the people’s interests within the EU.

  • Second, the European Parliament is one of the two legislative EU bodies; together with the Council of the EU, the EP forms, votes and decides about the EU laws.

  • Third, the MEPs ensure that other EU institutions are working democratically.

Not only does the European Parliament elect the individual European Commissioners and have the right to approve and dismiss the European Commission as a whole, but MEPs also elect the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs (currently Federica Mogherini) who is part of the European Commission too, as well as the President of the European Council (currently Donald Tusk).

How does the European Parliament participate in the EU legislative process?

The legislative process of EU law-making resembles those on the national level: the Parliament has two chambers – one represented by the European Parliament, the second by the Council of the EU.

In short, a legislative proposal is first drafted by the European Commission, based either on its own initiative or at the request of other EU institutions, member states or even citizens themselves. Subsequently, the proposal is discussed first within the European Parliament, followed by the Council of the European Union. Both can adopt the original version or amend it, having the possibility to do so in two rounds of readings.

If no agreement is reached, the two legislative bodies co-work together in a Conciliation Committee, searching for a compromise proposal that is either approved or rejected in the third round of reading. You can find the EU legislation process clearly explained on the EP website here.

How does the European Parliament work?

Currently, there are 751 MEPs coming from 28 EU member states. The European Parliament works like a parliament in the national context. Although elected on the national level, the deputies are split into European political groups within the European Parliament; at present, there are eight European political groups ranging from the right to the left political orientation.

The main work of the MEPs takes place in Committees divided according to specific policy areas, such as International Trade, Budgetary Control, Culture and Education and others. Within these Committees, MEPs negotiate the legislative and other proposals voted afterwards in the plenary session of the European Parliament.

How does the European Parliament impact YOUR life? And how can YOU change it?

The European Parliament is the only EU institution directly-elected by the EU citizens. It significantly influences the functioning of other EU institutions, mainly the European Commission which is elected by the EP, but also the work of the Council of the EU as the EP is the Council's co-worker in the legislative process. Moreover, the European Parliament can also push the European Commission with its own legislative suggestions.

Your impact on the EU is substantially connected to the European Parliament. First, you can influence EU affairs through your vote for MEP candidates of your choice during the EP elections. These people represent YOUR interest and that’s why it is important to pay attention to the European elections. The forthcoming EP elections will take place from 23rd-26th May 2019. Find out how to vote on our website here. Second, after the elections, you can have an impact on the EU development through direct contact with MEPs, both those from your country and others. So don’t hesitate to be active. Go vote, have a say and engage with your MEPs.

The EU impacts your life. So have a say in how!

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