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The European Parliament

The European Parliament



Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)

Articles 223-234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) — role, composition and functioning of the European Parliament


They set out the role, competences, composition, mandate and electoral procedure for the European Parliament (hereafter ‘Parliament’).


The Parliament is the institution in the European Union directly elected by EU citizens, for EU citizens. It therefore represents the more than 500 million EU citizens and in this sense embodies democratic power. It has its seat in Strasbourg (France). Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected for a term of 5 years by direct election (since 1979) in a free and secret ballot, with a set number from each EU country. Parliament, as it is known nowadays, is actually the result of the merger of the 3 former Assemblies of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) (1965 Merger Treaty).


The Parliament’s powers have developed through successive revisions to the European Treaties. These include:

  • Decision making-power (power of deliberation):
    • exercising legislative power together with the Council over most EU areas of competence;
    • right to request the European Commission to submit a legislative proposal (Article 225 TFEU);
    • deciding the EU budget alongside the Council;
    • EU external action (EU decisions on concluding external agreements) require either Parliament’s consent or its consultation.
  • Power of control over the EU executive institutions (Commission and Council) mainly by ensuring political control over the Commission (by a motion of censure) or by asking oral or written questions to the Council. Parliament may also exercise its control over other EU institutions such as the European Central Bank (Article 284 TFEU).
  • Power of appointment by participating in the designation of the Commissioners, Ombudsman and Members of the Court of Auditors.



  • Under the ordinary legislative procedure (Article 294 TFEU), Parliament has equal standing with the Council. This procedure is used in the majority of policy areas including:
    • transport
    • environment
    • agriculture
    • energy security
    • immigration
    • justice
    • public health.
  • Parliament also intervenes on acts adopted under special legislative procedures, by giving its opinion (consultation procedure) or its consent (approval procedure).
  • Parliament’s approval is required for numerous types of agreement with non-EU countries or international organisations, such as association agreements or agreements in areas covered by ordinary legislative procedure (for example, trade agreements). Parliament must also be consulted for all other types of international agreement (Article 218 TFEU).


The Parliament operates on an equal footing with the Council for the entire procedure of adopting the annual EU budget. The budgetary procedure consists of one reading each from Parliament and Council, or otherwise a conciliation committee is convened to reach an agreement on a joint text (Article 314 TFEU).

Executive oversight

The Parliament can exercise a number of controls on the Commission, the EU’s executive branch:

  • The Commission President is elected following a proposal from the European Council, but the results of the European Parliament elections must be taken into consideration.
  • The inauguration of the Commission is dependent on approval from Parliament. This approval also involves the appointment of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is concurrently Vice-President of the European Commission.
  • Parliament can force the Commission to resign through a motion of censure.

Treaty revision

  • Parliament’s right of initiative permits it to propose a revision of the treaties.
  • It participates in the convention which examines the drafts submitted for a standard revision process of the treaties.
  • It must be consulted for the modification of treaties within the simplified revision procedure.


The allocation of seats between EU countries takes into account a number of factors:

  • maintaining a satisfactory proportion between the seats allocated to the EU countries and their populations;
  • allowing Parliament to reflect upon important political issues, even for the less populated EU countries;
  • the total number of MEPs must not exceed a certain limit, so the efficiency of Parliament’s work is not affected.

Upon Parliament’s initiative and with its approval, the European Council unanimously adopts a decision establishing Parliament’s composition (Article 14(2) TEU). The EU Treaties set out the basic rules on its composition:

  • the Parliament is composed of representatives of the EU’s citizens;
  • the maximum number of MEPs is 751, including Parliament’s President;
  • the minimum number of seats per EU country is 6;
  • the maximum number of seats per EU country is 96;
  • allocation of seats should be based on the principle of ‘degressive proportionality’. This means that the greater the population of a country, the greater number of MEPs it will have; however, each MEP in a larger country then represents proportionately more citizens than would be the case in a smaller country.





Treaty on European Union (TEU)


Role and composition of Parliament

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)

223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234

Functioning of the European Parliament


Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union — Title III — Provisions on the institutions — Article 14 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 22-23)

Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 1-388)


Protocol No 6 on the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies, offices, agencies and departments of the EU (Sole Article (a)) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 265)

European Council Decision 2013/312/EU of 28 June 2013 establishing the composition of the European Parliament (OJ L 181, 29.6.2013, pp. 57-58)

last update 15.12.2017