« Back to Glossary Index

Understanding the European Parliament ✨ ️

Ever wondered what goes on inside the heart of the European Union (EU)? The European Parliament is where a lot of the action happens! It’s a unique and powerful institution that represents millions of citizens from all over Europe. And guess what? In this article, we’re diving deep into its structure, functions, and why it’s so important. So, buckle up – we’re going on an epic journey through the corridors of one of the world’s most fascinating parliamentary bodies.

Did you know that the European Parliament was established in 1952 as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community? Back then, it only had 78 members. Fast forward to today, and it boasts 705 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all 27 EU member states!

The Parliament moves between three cities – Strasbourg, Brussels, and Luxembourg – making it a truly mobile institution. Plus, it’s the only directly elected body within the EU, giving ordinary people a voice in European legislation. Sounds pretty cool, right?

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know, from how MEPs get elected to the Parliament’s power to shape laws and influence international relations. Let’s get started and see what makes the European Parliament tick!

Structure of the European Parliament

  1. Composition and Membership

    • Number of Members: The European Parliament is composed of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who represent the citizens of the EU’s member states. The total number of MEPs had been set at 705 following the UK’s departure from the EU. How these seats are distributed among member countries depends on each country’s population. Larger countries like Germany have more MEPs, while smaller ones like Malta have fewer.
    • Election Process: MEPs are elected every five years in democratic elections held across all member states. These elections use a system of proportional representation so that the number of MEPs for each political group reflects the votes they’ve received. This means voters have a direct say in who will represent them in the parliament.
    • Term Lengths: Each successful candidate serves a term of five years. There’s no limit to how many times an MEP can be re-elected. This allows experienced members to continue their work over multiple terms if supported by the voters.
  2. Leadership and Offices

    • President of the European Parliament: The president is the head steward of the parliament, guiding its activities and representing it externally. They are elected by the MEPs for a renewable term of two and a half years, which is half the normal term of an MEP. The president’s duties include ensuring parliamentary procedures run smoothly and representing the body in relations with other EU institutions.
    • Vice-Presidents and Quaestors: Supporting the president are fourteen vice presidents and five quaestors. Vice-presidents assist in managing parliamentary sessions, while quaestors handle administrative and financial matters affecting MEPs. These roles ensure the smooth operation of the European Parliament’s daily activities.
    • Political Groups: The parliament is organized into several political groups, each consisting of MEPs with shared political goals. These groups, like the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), play a significant role in shaping parliamentary discussions and policies. They ensure that diverse political viewpoints are represented and considered in legislative processes.
  3. Committees and Delegations

    • Standing Committees: The European Parliament has 20 standing committees, each focusing on specific areas like foreign affairs, the environment, or economic matters. These committees review proposals for new laws, suggest amendments, and prepare reports that guide the parliament’s decision-making.
    • Special and Temporary Committees: At times, specific issues arise that require detailed investigation or a tailored approach. For these instances, the parliament can establish special or temporary committees. These committees are tasked with dealing with particular concerns for a set period, like investigating crises or reviewing specialized policies.
    • Interparliamentary Delegations: To maintain and build relationships with non-EU countries, the parliament has several interparliamentary delegations. These groups of MEPs engage in dialogue and cooperation with parliaments and organizations worldwide, promoting mutual understanding and collaboration on global issues.


  1. Legislative Role

    • Ordinary Legislative Procedure: Imagine writing a big story with a friend. The European Parliament (EP) starts creating laws this way, by working together with the Council of the European Union. They propose, debate, and make changes to laws until they both agree. It’s like a tag-team effort to craft rules everyone needs to follow.
    • Initiative Reports: Think of MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) as super proactive students who don’t wait for the teacher to give homework. These members can submit their suggestions for new laws, called initiative reports. It helps spark fresh ideas or revamp old ones.
    • Co-decision with the Council: Sometimes, the EP doesn’t work alone. They collaborate with the Council of the EU to make decisions. It’s like when you and your friends have to pick a movie together; you both have to agree on the choice.
  2. Budgetary Powers

    • Annual Budget: The EP has a big say in how the EU spends its money each year. They review, tweak, and approve the annual budget. This means deciding how much is spent on various projects like building roads or funding science.
    • Long-term Financial Framework: Planning for the future is important! The parliament also helps shape the EU’s financial plans that span multiple years. Think of it as creating a long-term savings and spending plan for a huge community.
  3. Supervisory Functions

    • Oversight of the European Commission: The European Commission is kind of like the EU’s executive branch. The EP keeps a close eye on them to make sure they’re doing their job right. They can approve the commission members, ask them questions, and even have the power to dismiss the entire group if something goes wrong.
    • Investigative Functions: If there’s a major issue or scandal, the EP can set up special committees to investigate, much like detectives. They hold hearings and gather information to get to the bottom of serious matters.
    • Reporting and Transparency: Transparency is crucial. The EP ensures that all activities and finances are clear and open to the public. They produce reports and documentation to keep everyone informed and accountable, promoting an environment of trust and honesty.

Let’s dive deeper into the fascinating ways the European Parliament operates. From law-making to budgeting and keeping an eye on things, it’s pretty amazing how this institution helps steer the EU ship. Understanding these functions gives us insight into how a huge and diverse entity like the European Union can run so smoothly.

Significance and Impact

Representation of Citizens

The European Parliament is all about making sure your voice gets heard. Each Member of the European Parliament (MEP) represents a chunk of the EU population, ensuring that citizens from all member states have a say in how things are run. Think of it as a giant megaphone, amplifying your concerns and suggestions directly to the top brass of the EU.

Public engagement is another key part. The parliament doesn’t just sit around; it actively works to involve the public. This includes everything from online forums to local meetings, making sure that everyone from kids to seniors knows what’s going on and how they can participate. It’s democracy in action!

Influence on EU Policy

Ever wonder how big decisions in the EU come about? The European Parliament has a hand in shaping policies that affect everything from the food you eat to the air you breathe. For instance, they’ve influenced major environmental policies to tackle climate change. They also push for fairer digital rules to protect your online rights.

Human rights advocacy is another area where the parliament shines. They’re champions of democracy and tirelessly work to promote human rights not just within Europe, but globally. They’ve played crucial roles in pushing for legislation that protects your freedoms and fights discrimination.

International Relations

The European Parliament isn’t just a player in the EU, it’s a global influencer. Whether it’s international trade agreements or climate accords, the parliament has a significant role. They negotiate and approve deals that impact how the EU does business around the world, ensuring fair and advantageous terms.

Parliamentary delegations strengthen this global reach. These groups travel abroad and build relationships with other countries. They work on everything from trade and environmental issues to human rights, showcasing the EU’s values on a global stage. Through these efforts, the parliament helps the EU navigate and influence international affairs effectively.


Understanding the European Parliament is crucial for grasping how the EU functions. This unique body ensures that the voices of over 400 million citizens are heard and represented. Knowing its structure—from MEPs to political groups and committees—helps you see how ideas are debated and decisions are made.

One important thing to keep in mind is how the Parliament works in tandem with other EU institutions, like the Council and the Commission. This cooperation and sometimes competition shape laws, budgets, and policies that affect many aspects of life.

To make the most of what you’ve learned, consider following some current events related to the European Parliament. Look up recent debates, new laws being passed, or budget discussions. Understanding real-world examples can deepen your appreciation for its processes and impacts.

Also, if you’re an EU citizen, know your representatives! MEPs are there to represent you, and being informed about their work can help you engage more meaningfully in the democratic process. Your voice and participation can make a difference.

Lastly, keep an eye on international relations. The European Parliament plays a pivotal role on the global stage, influencing trade agreements and advocating for human rights. This global outreach can affect international policies and relations in ways that might surprise you.

By staying informed and engaged, you’ll not only understand the European Parliament better but also appreciate the broader European project. Happy learning!

FAQ: European Parliament Explained

1. Structure of the European Parliament

Q: How many members are in the European Parliament?
A: The European Parliament has 705 Members. These seats are distributed among the member states based on their population.

Q: How are Members of the European Parliament elected?
A: MEPs are elected every five years by citizens of the member states during the European elections. Each country conducts elections according to its own rules.

Q: Who leads the European Parliament?
A: The European Parliament is led by a President, who oversees its activities, along with several Vice-Presidents and Quaestors who have specific administrative roles.

Q: What are political groups in the European Parliament?
A: Political groups are collections of MEPs who share similar political views. They play a significant role in setting the agenda and influencing decisions.

Q: What are standing committees?
A: Standing committees focus on specific areas like foreign affairs or the environment, debating and refining proposed laws in these domains.

2. Functions and Powers

Q: What is the European Parliament’s role in lawmaking?
A: The European Parliament shares legislative power with the Council of the EU. They use the Ordinary Legislative Procedure to debate and pass laws.

Q: Can MEPs suggest new laws?
A: Yes, MEPs can propose new laws through Initiative Reports, which are then discussed and can be developed further.

Q: What are the Parliament’s budgetary powers?
A: The European Parliament has a say in approving and amending the EU’s annual budget and influencing long-term financial planning.

Q: How does the Parliament oversee the European Commission?
A: The Parliament approves the Commission’s appointment, can question its members, and has the power to dismiss them if necessary.

Q: What are committees of inquiry?
A: These are special groups that investigate particular issues, hold hearings, and report on their findings to ensure transparency.

3. Significance and Impact

Q: How does the European Parliament represent citizens?
A: MEPs represent the interests and voices of their constituents, ensuring citizens’ concerns are addressed at the EU level.

Q: How does the Parliament engage with the public?
A: The Parliament organizes various initiatives to involve and inform citizens, making the legislative process more accessible.

Q: Can the European Parliament influence EU policy?
A: Yes, it plays a crucial role in shaping policies, advocating for human rights, and promoting democracy.

Q: What is the European Parliament’s role in international relations?
A: The Parliament has a significant global influence, participating in international agreements, and trade deals, and sending parliamentary delegations abroad to foster global partnerships.

Enjoy a clearer understanding of how the European Parliament operates and its vital role within the EU and on the global stage.

To deepen your understanding of the European Parliament, especially in terms of its influence on trade and finance, we’ve curated a list of helpful links and resources. These resources will provide you with additional insights and context, helping you fully grasp the significance of this key EU institution.

  1. Making Trade Policy: Learn how the European Union manages its trade and investment relations with non-EU countries. This resource provides a detailed overview of the EU’s approach to trade policy.
    Making Trade Policy – European Commission

  2. Financial Services Policy: Explore the vital role financial services play in the EU’s efforts to complete a single internal market, underlining the free movement of services and goods.
    Financial Services Policy | Fact Sheets on the European Union

  3. International Trade – EPP Group in the European Parliament: Discover how European trade legislation and international trade agreements come to life with the European Parliament’s cooperation.

    International Trade – EPP Group in the European Parliament
  4. Economic and Monetary Affairs – EPP Group: This link sheds light on the committee’s advocacy for a transparent and responsible financial market that supports European businesses and citizens.
    Economic and Monetary Affairs – EPP Group

  5. Canada and the European Union (EU): Gain insights into the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the commercial opportunities it creates.
    Canada and the European Union (EU)

  6. EU finance chief says ditch national symbols to boost capital market: An informative piece on why and how the EU finance chief suggests setting aside national symbols to consolidate the single market.

    EU finance chief says Ditch national symbols to Boost Capital Market

Exploring these resources will provide you with a well-rounded perspective on the European Parliament, its legislative and budgetary roles, its impact on international trade, and how it steers financial services within the European Union. Happy learning!

« Back to Glossary Index
This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.