The Lisbon treaty, which came in force in late 2009, brought new law-making powers to the European Parliament and put it on an equal footing with the Council of Ministers in deciding what the EU does and how money is spent. It also changed the way the Parliament works with other institutions and gave MEPs more influence on who runs the EU. All these reforms ensured that by casting your vote in the European elections, you get to have an even greater say on where Europe is heading.
The Lisbon treaty increased the ability of the EU and its Parliament to act and deliver. It extended Parliament’s full legislative power to more than 40 new fields, including agriculture, energy security, immigration, justice and EU funds, and put it on an equal footing with the Council that represents member states’ governments. Parliament also gained the power to approve the entire EU budget together with the Council.
MEPs were given the right to strike down international agreements and did not hesitate to use this to stop the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that many feared would stifle fundamental freedoms. This episode proved that as a result of the boost in powers, decisions taken by MEPs have an even stronger impact on the everyday life of Europeans.
The Lisbon treaty not only gave the Parliament the same law-making powers as the Council, but also granted it the clout to set Europe’s political direction. According to the treaty changes, it is the Parliament that elects the head of the Commission, the executive body of the EU, and this decision must reflect the results of the European elections and, therefore, the voters’ choice.
As the only EU institution directly elected by citizens, the Parliament has the powers and responsibility to hold the EU institutions accountable. The Parliament is the guardian of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, embedded in the Lisbon Treaty, as well as the newly established right of the citizens' initiative, which allows people to ask for new policy proposals if one million people have signed a petition asking for it.