A brief guide to the European Parliament  

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The European Parliament is the legislative branch of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. It is directly elected, and made up of members representing all EU countries.

The European Parliament decides upon EU legislation, including the multiannual budget, together with the Council of the European Union (EU member state governments). Read more about the European Parliament’s powers.

The European Parliament holds other EU institutions, like the European Commission, to account. It elects the President of the European Commission and plays a key role in vetting Commissioners-designate through individual hearings.

Organisation of the Parliament

In its tenth legislative term, the European Parliament will l have 720 members. The number of MEPs elected from each EU country is agreed before each election and is based on the principle of degressive proportionality, which means each MEP from a larger country represents more people than an MEP from a smaller country.

MEPs are organised by political affinity, not nationality, and join political groups that have representatives from many different countries Check here the number of MEPs by country.

The President of the Parliament is elected from among its members for a renewable term of two and a half years. The President represents the European Parliament vis-à-vis the outside world and in its relations with the other EU institutions. Roberta Metsola was elected President in January 2022.

The President oversees the work of the Parliament and its constituent bodies as well as the debates in plenary and ensures that Parliament’s Rules of Procedure are adhered to. At the beginning of every European Council meeting, the President of the European Parliament sets out Parliament’s point of view and its concerns as regards the items on the agenda and other subjects.

After the European Union’s budget has been adopted by Parliament, the President signs it, rendering it operational. The EP President and the President of the Council both sign all legislative acts adopted under ordinary legislative procedure.

Parliament’s committees

Committees amend legislative proposals through the adoption of reports, propose amendments to plenary and appoint a negotiation team to conduct negotiations with the Council on EU legislation. They also adopt own-initiative reports, organise hearings with experts and scrutinise the other EU bodies and institutions.

During the 9th term, Members were divided up among 20 specialised standing committees, that had between 25 and 88 full members, and the same number of substitutes. Find here the list of current standing committees and sub-committees.

In their constitutive meeting on 23 July, each committee will elect a chair and up to four vice-chairs from among its full members, forming together the ‘committee bureau’, for a two and a half year mandate. The political make-up of the committees reflects that of the full Parliament.

The committee chairs coordinate committee work in the Conference of Committee Chairs (CCC).

Political groups

A political group must consist of at least 23 MEPs elected in at least one one-quarter of the member states (i.e. at least seven countries), as established in rule 33 of the EP’s Rules of Procedure. By forming a group, MEPs accept by definition that they have political affinity - a political declaration, setting out the purpose of the group is included in the statement sent to the President. To be recognised as of 16 July, political groups must notify Parliament of their composition by 15 July 2024. A political group can be established at any time during the legislature.

Political groups can hire staff and are provided with administrative facilities, funded by Parliament's budget. Parliament’s Bureau sets the rules for how these funds and facilities are managed and audited. The funds available to the groups are intended not only to cover the administrative and operational cost of a group's staff but also the cost of political and information activities in connection with the European Union's political activities.

The budget may not be used to finance any form of European, national, regional or local electoral campaign or to finance political parties at national and European level or their dependent bodies.

Not all MEPs sit in a group. Those who do not are called “non-attached" members. They also are entitled to staff and have rights under the rules set out by the Bureau.

There are currently seven political groups in the European Parliament:

Each political group elects its own chair or co-chairs.

The political group chairs and the EP president constitute the EP Conference of Presidents.

The Conference of Presidents organises Parliament’s business and legislative planning, decides the responsibilities and membership of committees and delegations and is responsible for relations with other EU institutions, the national parliaments and non-EU countries.

The political groups elect “coordinators” for the parliamentary committees. They are each group’s political leader in the committee. They coordinate their group’s viewpoint on the topics before the committee, and together with the chair and the vice-chairs, they organise the work in the committee.

Establishing the Commission

Following the election of the Commission President at the beginning of the term, MEPs assess the suitability and qualification of the Commissioner candidates, who are proposed by the Council, in agreement with the Commission President. The commissioners-designate appear before parliamentary committees in their prospective fields of responsibility and face lengthy public and transparent questioning on their competence and suitability for the position by MEPs. Find more details on the hearings’ process in the section “After the European elections” of this press kit.

The full Commission, including the Commission President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, must be elected by a majority of the votes cast, by roll call, after the President-elect has presented the College of Commissioners and their programme before MEPs.

State of the Union debates

Every year, in September, the State of the European Union debate (#SOTEU) is an opportunity for MEPs to relay citizens’ concerns, assess the work accomplished by the Commission in the preceding twelve months, and discuss future challenges for the EU. This annual event, established in 2010 by the Framework Agreement on relations between Parliament and the Commission, echoes similar practices in national democracies.