The European Parliament is the only directly elected body of the seven European Union institutions, standing as “the voice of the people.” Together with the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU. With an astounding 751 Members of the European Parliament (as of July 2014), representing 500 million European citizens, the European Parliament represents the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest transnational democratic electorate in the world; there were 375 million eligible voters in 2009. The first EU institution mentioned in the European Treaties is the European Parliament, ranking it the “first institution” of the EU, before the Council and the Commission. Thus, the EP President precedes all the national and European authorities at the European level. The current President of the European Parliament is Antonio Tajani; elected in January 2017. The seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg, France. Other places of work are in Brussels, Belgium and Luxembourg, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Meetings of the entire Parliament (plenary sessions) take place in Strasbourg and Brussels, committee meetings are held in Brussels, while Luxembourg is home to some administrative offices.
The European Parliament has undergone significant changes on its way to becoming the institution it is today. It was founded in 1952 as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) with 78 members from six member states. Renamed as the European Parliamentary Assembly in 1958, it finally became the European Parliament in 1962.
The European Parliament is the only directly elected body of the EU. Similar to the U.S. Congress, citizens from all 28 Member States elect their representatives. Just like the process in U.S. Congressional elections, the number of Members of the European Parliament (MEP) distributed to each state varies in proportion to its population. Germany (the most populous Member State) has 99 MEPs while Cyprus (the least populous Member State), has 6 MEPs.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sit in political groups - they are not organized by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament. The political groups of the European Parliament are sometimes the formal representation of a European political party (Europarty) in the Parliament. In other cases, they are political coalitions of a number of European parties, national parties, and independent politicians.
A draft European law that is tabled for the first time, or even an existing piece of legislation that comes up for review, is presented to Parliament by the European Commission and passed on to the relevant Committee in the European Parliament, depending on the dossier and the competence of the various committees.
Parliament’s day-to-day administrative work is done by its General Secretariat, based in Luxembourg, Brussels, and Strasbourg. This administrative body employs over 4,000 EU civil servants consisting of: administrators, interpreters, translators, assistants, secretaries, clerical staff, and manual or service staff. In addition to providing technical and expert assistance to the European Parliament President, MEPs, and parliamentary bodies, MEPs and their staffers rely on the secretariat to coordinate legislative work and organize the plenary and committee meetings.