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Summaries of EU Legislation

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The European Parliament

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The European Parliament


The European Parliament is the institution where EU citizens are represented directly. Every five years, citizens elect MEPs, a given number of which is set for each Member State.

The powers of the European Parliament have been developed through revisions to European treaties. The Parliament now exercises legislative power equally with the Council across most EU areas of competence. It decides the Union budget alongside the Council. It ensures political control over the Commission.


The allocation of seats between Member States at the Parliament is a complex subject which has often been at the core of debates when treaties are revised. These allocations must first of all maintain a satisfactory proportion between the seats allocated to the Member States and their populations. Next, they must allow Parliament to reflect upon important political issues, even for the less populated Member States. Finally, the total number of parliamentarians must not exceed a certain limit so the efficiency of the work of the Parliament is not affected.

Since the treaty of Lisbon, the allocation of seats between Member States no longer figures in the treaties. Now, it must be decided by a unanimous decision adopted by the European Council, upon the initiative of the Parliament and with its approval.

The treaty establishes the basic rules which relate to the composition of the Parliament:

  • the maximum number of deputies is set at 751, including the President of Parliament;
  • the minimum number of seats per Member State is set at 6;
  • the maximum number of seats per Member State is set at 96;
  • allocation of seats should be based on the principal of degressive proportionality. In other words, the greater the population of a state, the greater number of deputies it will have and the greater the number of inhabitants represented by a deputy of this state will be.

Further to the entry of Croatia into the Union in July 2013, the number of European deputies temporarily reached 766. After the European elections in May 2014, this number returned to 751, with 12 countries losing a seat (Romania, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Ireland, Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia) and Germany lost three.


The Treaty of Lisbon strengthened the democratic nature of the EU by widening the prerogatives of the European Parliament. The co-decision procedure, in which Parliament is on an equal standing with the Council, has been re-baptised ordinary legislative procedure. More than 40 new areas now make use of ordinary legislative procedure, including agriculture, energy security, immigration, justice, internal affairs, public health and structural funds. (see document legislative procedures). Parliament also intervenes on acts adopted within the field of special legislative procedures, by giving its opinion (consultation procedure) or its agreement (approval procedure).

At the international level, approval from Parliament is required for numerous types of agreement with third countries or international organisations, such as association agreements or agreements in areas covered by ordinary legislative procedure (for example commercial agreements). It must also be referred to for all other types of international agreement.

The Parliament has seen its budgetary capabilities strengthened by the Treaty of Lisbon. It also operates on an equal basis with the Council for the entire procedure of adopting the annual budget of the European Union and no longer only for non-compulsory expenditure. Before entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the Parliament did not have the last word on compulsory expenditure, in particular for agriculture or for international agreements (approximately 45% of the Union's entire budget), for which all that could be done was to suggest changes. The procedure has been simplified and consists of one reading each from Parliament and Council, or otherwise a conciliation committee reading (article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

The Parliament has also seen its power increased over political control in the European Commission. The President is elected following a proposal from the European Council. The results of the European elections must be taken into consideration. The inauguration of the Commission in its entirety is then dependant on approval from Parliament. This approval also involves the nomination of the High Representative for foreign policy and community security, who is concurrently Vice-President of the European Commission. In accordance with article 234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, Parliament can also force the Commission to resign, through a motion of no confidence.

Finally, Parliament acquires further responsibilities concerning the revision of the founding treaties of the Union. It has a right of initiative and can therefore propose a revision of the treaties. It participates in the Convention which examines the projects submitted for a standard revision process of the treaties and it must be consulted for the modification of treaties within the simplified revision procedure.





EU Treaty


Role and composition of Parliament

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

223 to 234

Functioning of the European Parliament


2013/312/EU: European Council Decision of 28 June 2013 establishing the composition of the European Parliament [Official Journal L 181 of 29/06/2013].

Last updated: 08.05.2014