The European Parliament is made up of 751 Members elected in the 28 Member States of the enlarged European Union. Since 1979 MEPs have been elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year period.
Each country decides on the form its election will take, but must guarantee equality of the sexes and a secret ballot. EU elections are by proportional representation. Voting age is 18, aside from Austria, where it is 16.
Seats are allocated on the basis of population of each Member State. Slightly more than a third of MEPs are women. MEPs are grouped by political affinity, not nationality.
MEPs divide their time between their constituencies, Strasbourg - where 12 plenary sittings a year are held - and Brussels, where they attend additional plenary sittings, as well as committee and political group meetings.
The terms and conditions for Members are laid out in the Statute of 2009.
The Code of Conduct entered into force on 1 January 2012. It sets out as its guiding principles that Members shall act solely in the public interest and conduct their work with disinterest, integrity, openness, diligence, honesty, accountability and respect for the European Parliament's reputation.
The Code of Conduct defines conflicts of interest and how Members should address them and it includes rules on, for example, official gifts to Members and professional activities of former Members.
The Code of Conduct also puts an obligation on Members to submit a detailed declaration of their financial interests. Members are also obliged to declare their attendance at events organised by third parties, where the reimbursement of their travel, accommodation, or subsistence expenses, or the direct payment of such expenses, is covered by a third party. These declarations are a reflection of the demanding rules and standards of transparency laid down in the Code of Conduct. The information supplied by Members in their declarations can be found on the Members' individual profile pages.
Members also have to declare gifts they have received when representing Parliament in an official capacity, under the conditions laid down in the Implementing Measures to the Code of Conduct. Such gifts are reported in the register of gifts.
Any Member found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct can be given a penalty by the President. This penalty is announced by the President in Plenary and prominently published on Parliament's website for the remainder of the Parliamentary term.
The Advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members is the body responsible for giving Members guidance on the interpretation and implementation of the Code of Conduct. At the request of the President the Advisory Committee also assesses alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct and advises the President on possible action to be taken
The Advisory Committee is composed of five Members. They are appointed by the President on the basis of their experience and of political balance between Parliament's political groups. Each of the five Members serves as chairperson for six months, on a rotating basis. The President also nominates one reserve Member for each political group not otherwise represented in the Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee publishes each year a report of its work.
MEPs, in general, receive the same salary under the single statute which came into effect in July 2009.
The monthly pre-tax salary of MEPs under the single statute is €8,213.02 as of 1.7.2015. The salary comes from Parliament's budget and is subject to an EU tax and insurance contributions, after which the salary is €6,400.04. Member States may also subject the salary to national taxes. The basic salary is set at 38.5% of the basic salary of a judge at the European Court of Justice.
There are a few exceptions: MEPs who held a mandate in Parliament before the 2009 elections could opt to keep the previous national system for salary, transitional allowance and pensions.
Under the statute, former Members are entitled to an old-age pension from the age of 63. The pension equals 3.5% of the salary for each full year’s exercise of a mandate but not more than 70% in total. The cost of these pensions is met from the European Union budget.
An additional pension scheme, introduced for MEPs in 1989, was closed to new members from July 2009 and is being phased out.
Like Members of national parliaments, Members of the European Parliament receive a number of allowances that are intended to cover the expenditure they incur in the performance of their parliamentary duties.
This allowance is intended to cover expenditure in the Member State of election, such as Members’ office management costs, telephone and postal charges, and the purchase, operation and maintenance of computer and telematics equipment. The allowance is halved in the case of Members who, without due justification, do not attend half the number of plenary sittings in one parliamentary year (September to August).
The amount of this allowance in 2015 is EUR 4 320 per month.
Most meetings of the European Parliament, such as plenary sessions, committee meetings and political group meetings, take place in Brussels or Strasbourg. Upon presentation of the supporting documents, Members are reimbursed the actual cost of their travel tickets for attending such meetings, up to a maximum of the D business class (or similar) air fare, the first class rail fare or €0.50 per km for car journeys (up to a maximum of 1 000 km), plus fixed allowances based on the distance and duration of the journey to cover the other costs of travelling (such as motorway tolls, excess baggage charges and reservation fees).
Members are often required to travel within and outside the Member State in which they were elected, both in the performance of their official duties and for other purposes (for example, to attend a conference or take part in a working visit).
For activities outside their Member State of election, Members may be reimbursed for their travel, accommodation and related expenses up to a maximum annual amount of €4 264. For activities within their Member State of election, only travel expenses are reimbursed, up to a maximum annual amount determined on a country-by-country basis.
Members of the European Parliament are free to choose their own assistants within a budget set by Parliament. The relevant terms and conditions are laid down in Chapter 5 of the Implementing Measures for the Statute for Members.
In 2016, the maximum amount made available is EUR 23 392 per MEP. MEPs do not receive this money: it is paid out partly as a salary to assistants who fulfil the requirements and have a valid contract, and partly to the relevant income tax authorities.
There are several categories of assistant.
Accredited assistants working in Brussels, Luxembourg or Strasbourg are employed directly by Parliament. MEPs may recruit three accredited assistants, or, in certain circumstances, four. At least 25% of the parliamentary assistance allowance is earmarked for accredited assistants.
Local assistants assist MEPs in the Member State in which they were elected. The contracts for those assistants are managed by approved paying agents who guarantee compliance with social security and tax rules. Local assistants can have either an employment contract or a service provider contract.
Traineeships may be offered either at Parliament or in the Member State in which the MEP concerned was elected.
Total expenditure on local assistants and trainees may not exceed 75% of the parliamentary assistance allowance. Expenditure on service providers, however, may not exceed 25% of the allowance.
More information on pay can be found here.
Comparable maximum amounts have been set for legal persons providing services and for paying agents.
Several MEPs may form a grouping to recruit one or more accredited or local assistants. They then decide among themselves how to share out the costs.
MEPs may not employ close relatives as assistants. Their assistants must not engage in any external activities that might result in a conflict of interest.
The names or corporate names of all assistants are published on Parliament’s website for the duration of their contract, unless they obtain a derogation on duly justified grounds of protection of their safety.
This publication is dedicated to the results of the European elections of May 2014 and to the history of 35 years of direct elections to the European Parliament since 1979, as well as to the different national elections. Two updates of 24 July 2015 and 4 February 2016 complete the main edition.