The European Parliament
Parliament represents, in the words of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, 'the
peoples of the States brought together in the European Community'. Some
457 million European citizens in 25 Member States are now represented by
732 members in the European Parliament.
direct elections to the European Parliament were held in June 1979 when,
34 years after the end of Second World War, for the first time in history,
the peoples of the nations of Europe, once torn apart by war, went to the
polls to elect the members of a single parliament. Europeans could have
devised no more powerful symbol of reconciliation.
European Parliament, which is elected every five years, has steadily
acquired greater influence and power through a series of treaties. These
treaties, particularly the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and the 1997 Amsterdam
Treaty, have transformed the European Parliament from a purely
consultative assembly into a legislative parliament, its power of
co-decision making it an equal partner with the Council of Ministers in
most EU policy areas. Co-decision power does not apply in Agriculture or
policy though, meaning that all final decisions in these areas are made by
the Council of Ministers.
Members of the European Parliament
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected at five-year
intervals, under a variety of systems of proportional representation.
Elections are held either on a regional basis, as for example in the
United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium, on a national basis, as in Spain and
Denmark, or under a mixed system as in Germany. The UK currently has 78
Members, with Scotland being one electoral area electing 7 MEPs.
Greece and Luxembourg voting is compulsory. A common core of democratic
rules applies everywhere: these include the right to vote at 18, equality
of men and women, and the principle of the secret ballot.
Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993 every citizen of an EU member
state who lives in another country of the Union may vote or stand for
election in their country of residence.
16.5% of MEPs were women, and this figure has risen steadily over
successive parliamentary terms, reaching 27.5% on 1 January 1996 and 30.3%
after the 2004 elections.
the European Parliament receive the same salary as members of their
respective Member State parliaments, so MEPs from Scotland are paid the
same amount as a Westminster MP. It is paid by their member state of
election, and subject to state taxation.
Composition of the European Parliament
European Parliament has 732 Members. The number of Members per state is
laid down in the Treaties, currently as follows;
Germany - 99; France, Italy, UK - 78; Poland, Spain - 54;
Netherlands - 27; Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal - 24;
Sweden - 19; Austria - 18; Denmark, Finland, Slovakia - 14; Ireland,
Lithuania - 13; Slovenia - 7; Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg - 6;
Malta - 5.
Organisation of the European Parliament
Parliament is the only Community institution that meets and debates in
public. Its decisions, positions and proceedings are published in the
Official Journal of the European Communities.
in political groups in the Chamber, not in national delegations.
Parliament currently has seven political groups, as well as 'non-attached'
Members. These political groups include members from over 150 political
parties. The two SNP Members are part of the European Free Alliance, which
currently consists of MEPs from devolved or autonomous areas, including
Scotland, Wales and Catalonia plus a member from Latvia. The EFA has an
arrangement with various Green Parties to form the Greens/European Free
sit on parliamentary committees and delegations, as either full or
MEPs are obliged by Treaty to spend one week each month at a plenary
session in Strasbourg, when Parliament meets in full session. Additional
two-day sittings are held in Brussels. Two weeks in every month are set
aside for meetings of Parliament's committees in Brussels. The remaining
week is devoted to meetings of the political groups, also in Brussels.
assistance of translators and interpreters, Parliament works in the twenty
official languages of the Union: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian,
Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian,
Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish.