Each Member State decides on the form its election will take, but follows identical democratic groundrules: equality of the sexes and a secret ballot. In all Member States, the voting age is 18, with the exception of Austria, where it is 16. European elections are already governed by a number of common principles: direct universal suffrage, proportional representation and a five-year renewable term.
The seats are, as a general rule, shared out proportionately to the population of each Member State.
Equality of men and women: the proportion of women in the European Parliament has risen steadily. At present slightly over one third of MEPs are women.
MEPs divide their time between Brussels, Strasbourg and their constituencies.
In Brussels they attend meetings of the parliamentary committees and political groups, and additional plenary sittings. In Strasbourg they attend 12 plenary sittings. In parallel with these activities they must also, of course, devote time to their constituencies.
The Members of the European Parliament are grouped by political affinity and not by nationality.
They exercise their mandate in an independent fashion.
Members of the European Parliament, whose powers have become more and more extensive, influence every area of the day to day life of the European public: the environment, consumer protection and transport, as well as education, culture, health etc.
The new Statute for Members of the European Parliament entered into force on 14 July 2009. The new Statute makes the terms and conditions of MEPs' work more transparent and introduces a common salary for all Members paid from the EU budget.