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The European Parliament

Updated on August 9, 2012

The European Parliament represents about 450 million citizens living in the European Union. Its members are called MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) and there are 732 MEPs that were elected on the 13th of June 2004 in the 25 Members States. There can be no more than 750 MEPs, with no less than six per member state and no members are allowed to have more that ninety six seats in parliament. Every five years, these people are directly elected by the citizens of the EU. Each country is free to choose their own method to elect their MEPs along as they go by these three restrictions:

  1. The system must be a form of proportional representation, under either the party list or Single Transferable Vote system.

  2. The electoral area may be subdivided if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the voting system

  3. The electoral area may be subdivided if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the voting system

The amount of seats for each Member State is based on the principle of digressive proportionality, so that a country with a smaller population would be represented by less MEPs than a country with higher population. The elections held in June 2004 were the most recent elections to the European Parliament, they are also largest simultaneous transactional election that have ever been held anywhere in the world, because there were around 400 million citizens voting.

The European Commission is supervised by the European Parliament. The Parliament has to approve all the appointments, and can reject it if it has a vote of censure. It also manages the European Budget.

For Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy and The United Kingdom the National Territory is divided into different constituencies for European Elections. A single electoral area is formed for the remaining twenty Members States.

Brussels is usually treated as the capital of the European Union but the European parliament also has to meet in the city of Strasbourg in France every month. From this, the European parliament is sometimes unofficially known as the “Strasbourg Parliament” and Strasbourg as the Democratic Capital of Europe.

Four days each month are spent in Strasbourg to take plenary votes, and then additional plenary meetings are held in Brussels. The European Parliament has more than once expressed that it would like to abandon the two seat system, and change to a one seat system. Even though they did abandon the third seat (Luxembourg) twenty years ago, there are still rival demands between Brussels, Belgium and Strasbourg, France. Which seat is to be eliminated has not yet been decided. Most people in the European Parliament are against Strasbourg being the remaining seat and would like to have Brussels as their only location.


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    • cfin profile image

      cfin 5 years ago from The World we live in

      The commission may be supervised*

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 5 years ago from The World we live in

      Did you know that the european parliament only has the power to veto, and it is the only democratically elected one out of the 3 (commision, parliament, council), yet has the least power? I studied EU law and found this particular institution to be a little misleading.

      It commission may be survised by the parliament, yet the parlaiment only has the power to veto. The commission can resubmit any suggestion it wishes, as many times as it wants. The parliament, usually and eventually gives in.