The European Union has a unicameral European Parliament with 766 seats. Following the 2014 Lisbon Treaty coming into full force, the number of seats was reduced to 751. The European Parliament has been steadily gaining power over recent decades and now acts as a co-legislator for nearly all EU law. Together with the Council, the Parliament adopts or amends proposals from the Commission. Parliament also supervises the work of the Commission and adopts the European Union's budget. Beyond these official powers the Parliament also works closely with national parliaments of EU countries. Regular joint parliamentary assemblies allow for a better inclusion of national perspectives into the Parliament's deliberations.
MEPs are elected according to national electoral systems, but these have to observe certain common provisions established by EU law such as proportional representation. As a general rule, voters can choose between political parties, individual candidates or both. While in some Member States, voters can only vote for a list, without the possibility to change the order of candidates on the list (closed list), in other Member States voters can express their preference for one or more of the candidates (preferential voting). Depending on the degree of freedom voters enjoy when casting their preferential vote, one can distinguish between semi-open lists, where voters can change the position of one or all candidates on a single chosen list, and open lists, where voters can vote for candidates from different lists. Instead of a list system, some Member States use the single transferable vote (STV). Under this system, the voter has one vote but can rank the candidates in order of their first, second, third, etc. choice. To be elected, a candidate needs to receive a minimum number of votes.
The European Parliament may approve or reject a legislative proposal, or propose amendments to it. The Council is not legally obliged to take account of Parliament's opinion but in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice, it must not take a decision without having received it. In the beginning, the 1957 Treaty of Rome gave Parliament an advisory role in the legislative process; the Commission proposed and the Council adopted legislation. The Single European Act (1986) and the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties successively extended Parliament's prerogatives.
The ordinary legislative procedure gives the same weight to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on a wide range of areas (for example, economic governance, immigration, energy, transport, the environment and consumer protection). The vast majority of European laws are adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council. The codecision procedure was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty on European Union (1992), and extended and made more effective by the Amsterdam Treaty (1999). With the Lisbon Treaty that took effect on 1 December 2009, the renamed ordinary legislative procedure became the main legislative procedure of the EU´s decision-making system.
On certain questions (e.g. taxation) the European Parliament gives only an advisory opinion (the 'consultation procedure'). In some cases the Treaty provides that consultation is obligatory, being required by the legal base, and the proposal cannot acquire the force of law unless Parliament has delivered an opinion. In this case the Council is not empowered to take a decision alone.
In the European Parliament, members are elected by proportional representation to serve 5-year terms. Member states may choose their own electoral systems so long as they are based on proportional representation or the single transferable vote. The Council of the European Union also serves as a legislative branch of the European Union. Members are elected indirectly by member countries. In the Council of the European Union, all measures must pass a qualified majority of 255 votes. In the Council, 28 member-state ministers have 352 votes, the number of votes being roughly proportional to member-states' populations.
MEPs divide their time between their constituencies, Strasbourg - where 12 plenary sittings a year are held - and Brussels, where they attend additional plenary sittings, as well as committee and political group meetings.
In a vast election 22-25 May 2014 covering 28 countries, more than 350 million people were able to vote for members of the European Parliament, the bloc's only directly elected body. The selection of top candidates for the European Commission presidency, introduced for the first time in this election, could give parliament greater legitimacy. A power struggle with the heads of state and government over the selection of the new commission president would also be an opportunity to raise its profile - but with an open-ended result.
The conservatives had been the largest group in the EU parliament for 15 years. European Parliament elections in 2014 saw a surge by fringe parties both on the right and left. Voters punished mainstream parties for years of austerity and angst about everything from globalization and immigration to the Brussels elite. The far-right parties received the biggest boost, doubling their representation to more than 100 members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The fringe parties on the right vary in their levels of support for Russia, but they cast a friendlier eye on the Kremlin than the mainstream political parties. Some find common cause with Putin in their dislike for the European Union and the United States, whereas others admire his strong-hand policies toward gays, immigration, and the state's role in the economy.
The EU does not have a single electoral law for these elections. Many details are decided at a national level, but a basic set of rules has been established in 1999: MEPs must be elected on the basis of proportional representation, the threshold must not exceed 5%, and the electoral area may be subdivided in constituencies if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the voting system.
|European People’s Party (EPP) |
Parti Populaire Européen (PPE)
Europäische Volkspartei [EVP]
Europäisches Ideennetzwerk [EI]
|Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats |
European Socialists (PES) + ???
|Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) |
Alliance des Démocrates et des Libéraux pour l’Europe (ADLE)
|The Greens + European Free Alliance (EFA) ||-||-||[84+7]||55||...|
|Party of the European Left (PEL) |
Parti de la Gauche Européenne EUL–NGL
|Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) |
Alliance des Conservateurs et Réformistes Européens (AECR)
| Europe of Freedom and Democracy|
L'Europe de la liberté et la démocratie
|European Alliance of Peoples and Nations (EAPN)||-||-||-||-||...|
|Europe of Nations and Freedoms||..||..||..||35||...|
|European Green Party |
Parti Vert Européen
|UEN National Conservatives||31||27||-||-||-|
|Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (MELD) |
Mouvement pour l'Europe des libertés et de la démocratie
Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group
|European Free Alliance (EFA) |
Alliance Libre Européenne
|European Democratic Party (EDP) |
Parti Democratique Européen (PDE)
|European Alliance for Freedom (EAF) |
Alliance européenne pour la liberté (AEL)
|Alliance of European National Movements (AEMN) |
Alliance Européenne des Mouvements Nationaux
|European Christian Political Movement (ECPM)|
European Conservatives and Reformists
|EUDemocrats – Alliance for a Europe of Democracies (EUD) |
UEDémocrates - Alliance pour une Europe des Démocraties
European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL)
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