The European Parliament

Its main job is to make laws in agreement with the Council of Ministers

751 members (73 from UK), called MEPs

Elected in member states every five years

Recognised political party groups:

European Peoples Party
Socialists & Democrats
Conservatives and Reformists
Alliance of Liberal Democrats
European United Left
Europe of Freedom & Democracy

It doesn’t form a government

What it does

The Parliament is the single directly elected group in the EU government.

The job of the Parliament is to debate ideas put forward by the Commission and, with the approval of the Council of Ministers, decide what should be made law.

A session of the European Parliament

The Parliament also approves the appointment of the Commissioners who run the Commission and the President of the Commission.

In some ways it’s just like any other parliament in a member state.

Its members are elected,
There are political parties,
It votes on proposed new laws.

In other ways it is different.

In other parliaments, the largest party or a group of parties, forms the government. The parliament passes all the laws and can propose laws.

The European Parliament doesn’t form a government and there is therefore no party or parties of government.

It can’t make laws on its own. It has to get the approval of the Council of Ministers.

The process by which laws are made jointly by the Parliament and the Council of Ministers is called co-decision.

The Parliament can’t propose new laws. It can only act on proposals put up by the Commission. It can however ask the Commission to put forward new ideas for laws.

Where it meets and what languages used

The Parliament meets in two places, Strasbourg and Brussels.

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg It meets in Strasbourg for so-called plenary sessions when it votes on draft laws as a parliament.


It meets in Brussels for committee work.

There is a campaign by some MEPs to have just one place, Brussels, for the parliament. Those MEPs claim it costs £180 million a year to run the Strasbourg offices.

The decision on where offices of the EU are situated is one for the member states.
The European Parliament building in Brussels

In full sessions of Parliament MEPs speak in their own language. Simultaneous interpretation is provided in all 24 official languages.

Who the members are

There are 751 members. They are called MEPs (Members of the European Parliament).

The number from each member country is broadly in proportion to size of population. The UK has 73. See who your MEPs are.

They are elected for a period of five years. The next election will be in June 2014.

There are seven recognised political groups:

The European Peoples Party The European Peoples Party (EPP). The largest grouping in the Parliament, broadly conservative.
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats The Party of European Socialists, similar to the British Labour Party.
European Conservatives and Reformists European Conservatives and Reformists. They are against giving any more power to Brussels.
Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe The Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe, similar to our Liberal Democrats.
The Greens / European Free Alliance The European Green Party, similar to our Green Party, advocating sustainable economy, care for environment.
European United Left / Nordic Green Left - a group made up of MEPs from traditional communist, reformed socialist and other left wing parties.
  Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) - a right-wing 'eurosceptic' political group.

The Parliament elects one of its members as President of the Parliament. The President’s job is to chair debates and sign most new laws.

The President holds the job for two and a half years and is elected from one of the two major parties.

The President is Martin Schulz, from July 2014. Previously he had been leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second-largest political group in the European Parliament.


You can look at a chart showing how proposals for new laws have to be considered by all three main institutions. As they go through the system they can be amended, approved or thrown out. All three institutions must agree.

Click for the chart and then come back to this page

Back to The Main Institutions