Parliament is at the heart of European democracy. Directly elected representatives of European citizens debate and decide on laws together with Council.
But lawmaking is only one of Parliament’s roles. MEPs discuss and set the political agenda in key debates with national and international leaders, investigate areas of concern, assess the need for action and initiate revisions of laws and new rules.
MEPs assess the work of the EU Commission, keep track of how EU laws are implemented in member states and hold powerful institutions and organisations to account, in particular where fundamental rights come under threat. Close to citizens’ concerns, they use their right – and duty - of scrutiny to check the results of EU policies on the spot, monitor (and vote on) negotiations for international agreements and veto Commission acts when necessary. Read FAQ on the work of MEPs.
Parliament also changed its internal rules to enable more efficient and ever more transparent EU lawmaking over the past four years. Urgent matters, especially measures to help member states recover from the financial crisis, were dealt with in fast-track procedures. Learn more about the “Better Lawmaking agreement”.
Legislative work to date
Almost 1000 legislative proposals by the Juncker Commission have been discussed, improved and most have been concluded successfully after negotiations with the Council since the 2014 elections. Major legislative decisions during Parliament’s 8th term:
Read more about the power of the European Parliament: Examples of EP impact during the 2014-2019 legislative term
Get the full picture: step-by-step lawmaking in all policy areas since 2014
Free multimedia packages are available to download for AV and online media on many legislative topics (click on name to access a wealth of videos and photos) such as:
Investigating and initiating new rules
To prepare the way for legislative changes, Parliament voted on resolutions that channel the concerns and expectations of the citizens they represent into new Commission proposals and trigger revisions of existing laws.
When scandals or abuses of potentially large-scale impact emerged (such as Luxleaks, Panama Papers, carmakers’ cheating on emissions, pesticide authorisations), Parliament set up special committees to conduct in-depth investigations, inquiries and hearings by MEPs to hold those in charge to account. Their findings and detailed recommendations feed into new Commission proposals.
EU budget vote and control
Parliament and Council share the budgetary authority for the European Union’s annual budget. Parliament also has a say in the EU’s long-term budget, the multiannual financial framework, which needs its approval to take effect. It also acts as the “discharge” authority. This means it must check how the annual budget is spent and then grant, postpone or withhold approval for each EU institution’s budget management.
MEPs in all of Parliament’s committees also kept a close eye on how EU laws are implemented and how they affect citizens’ lives. They held the EU Commission to account for its executive work and how EU money is spent. Fact-finding missions and ad-hoc delegations gathered evidence on the spot to assess thoroughly before deciding on further steps to be taken.
MEPs also question the Commission in writing on urgent matters, sometimes followed by a resolution tabled in plenary session by political groups.
Where needed, Parliament vetoed Commission decisions (in delegated and implementing acts) when MEPs considered that the executive had overstepped its powers.
State of the Union debates
Once a year, MEPs take stock of the work accomplished by the Commission in the past twelve months and discuss the challenges ahead in the "State of the Union" plenary debate with the Commission president in autumn.
All State of the Union speeches by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
Furthermore, MEPs followed the Commission’s negotiations of international treaties closely and issued detailed resolutions to allow for more transparency and for Parliament to be more closely involved ahead of any final deal which needs its consent (i.e. approval or rejection vote) before entering into force.
Parliament’s Petitions Committee has registered around 6 400 petitions since July 2014, and dealt with citizens’ complaints, requests, and observations by citizens on the application of EU law. The committee serves as a mediator between petitioners and member states in order to resolve a specific problem. Petitions are sometimes followed up in plenary session through debates, oral questions and resolutions.