What is the European Parliament

The European Parliament

How it all started

Parliament's origins go back to the 1950s. The forerunners of the European Union, such as the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, already had an assembly in which the representatives of the national parliaments sat.

Member states of the early European Communities were Germany, the Benelux countries, Italy and France. Together, the state representatives acted as budgetary authorities and had control rights over other institutions.

Over the years and after some treaty changes, the European Parliament has gained more and more rights. It has been transformed from a consultative assembly into a parliament with legislative and supervisory powers.

Headquarters in Strasbourg

The plenary sessions usually take place in Strasbourg, the actual seat of Parliament. The committees and political groups meet in Brussels. The members of parliament do not organize themselves in national blocks, but according to Europe-wide political groups in which all the important parties of the EU member states are grouped together.

Specifically, this means: There is, for example, the European People's Party as a Christian Democratic union or the Social Democratic Party of Europe, the Liberal and Democratic Party of Europe and correspondingly green or left supranational parliamentary groups.

The number of seats per member country depends on the number of residents in the respective country. The number fluctuates between a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 96. Germany, with around 80 million inhabitants, has 96 seats, while Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg, the least populous countries, have only 6 seats each.

Duties and powers

Depending on the matter, the European Parliament is involved in decisions within the EU through opinion, cooperation, codecision or approval. One of the EP's most important tasks is the legislative power, which it shares with the Council, i.e. examining and approving European legislation.

But also the approval of the EU budget and the democratic control of the other EU institutions are important tasks. Parliament also has the right to set up committees of inquiry. It also controls the European Commission and has the right to cast a vote of no confidence against it.

Furthermore, the parliament has to give its consent to important international decisions, for example the accession of states to the EU or trade agreements between the EU and third countries. Like the national parliaments, the EP also has special committees for specific issues (foreign affairs, budget, environment, etc.). Parliament must also approve the appointment of the Commission President and appoint the European Ombudsman.