Background information on the European Parliament
The European Parliament is the only EU institution directly elected by Europe’s citizens. It represents approximately 500 million people in the EU’s 28 Member States. Elections are held every five years. The June 2009 election marked the 30th anniversary of elections by universal suffrage. Since the elections in May 2014, the European Parliament has 751 members (MEPs).
Since 1979, successive EU treaties have increased the powers of the European Parliament over the EU budget and legislation as well as its power of scrutiny over the EU’s other institutions and bodies.
In most EU policy areas, decisions on new EU laws are made jointly by Parliament, directly representing the citizens, and the Council of Ministers, representing the Member States.
Parliament plays an active role in drafting legislation which has an impact on the daily lives of its citizens, e.g. in the areas of environmental protection, consumer rights, equal opportunities, transport, agriculture, energy security, immigration, justice and home affairs, health, structural funds and the free movement of workers, capital, services and goods. Parliament also shares power with the Council over the EU annual budget.
Every year Parliament holds 12 plenary sessions in Strasbourg. Parliamentary committee meetings and additional plenary sessions are held in Brussels. Debates are conducted in all the EU’s official languages, reflecting its commitment to a varied and multicultural Union which is ‘united in diversity’.