||The European Parliament
The European Parliament (EP) is elected by the citizens of the European Union to represent their interests. Its origins go back to the 1950s and the founding treaties. Since 1979 its members have been directly elected by the people they represent. You can read more on the historical background of the European Parliament here.
Elections are held every five years, and every EU citizen who is on an electoral roll is entitled to vote. Parliament thus expresses the democratic will of the Union's citizens (more than 490 million people), and represents their interests in relation with the other EU institutions.
The present parliament has 785 members from all 27 EU countries. Nearly one third of them are women. In principle, the number of Members of the European Parliament shall not exceed 736 from the next parliamentary term on (i.e. 2009 – 2014). Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty (still undergoing the process of ratification in the member states) limits the number of MEPs to 751. Since Bulgaria and Romania joined the Union in the course of the 2004-2009 parliamentary term, the current maximum number of 732 seats in the EP is temporarily exceeded. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) do not sit in national blocks, but in seven Europe-wide political groups. Between them, they represent all views on European integration, from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Eurosceptic.
In the European Parliament, all 23 Community languages are equally important: all parliamentary documents are published in all the official languages of the European Union (EU) and every MEP has the right to speak in the official language of his/her choice.
The President of the Parliament, who oversees parliamentary activities as well as representing the European Parliament on the international scene, is elected for a term of two and a half years at the beginning and middle of each five-year term. Since January 2007, Mr Hans-Gert Poettering, an EPP-ED MEP, has been President of the Parliament. Fourteen vice-presidents are also elected for the same term, and together with the President and five quaestors, they constitute the Bureau of the Parliament.
How Does it Work?
For many years the Parliament was simply a forum for debate, a purely consultative body. But since the Single European Act (1986), the Parliament was given substantial legislative power, operating in close co-operation with the Council. Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1991, the European Parliament has been fully incorporated in a codecision procedure with the Council of Ministers, in major areas including health, education, trans-European networks and the completion of the internal market. Subsequent treaties - The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), the Treaty of Nice (2000), the Draft Constitutional Treaty (2004) and the Lisbon Treaty (2007) - have all reinforced the role of the Parliament and widened the scope of its decision making powers.
The high point of the European Parliament's political activity, plenary sittings, represent the culmination of the legislative work done in Committees and in the political groups. The plenary sitting is also the forum in which the MEPs take part in Community decision-making and express their standpoint vis-à-vis the Commission and Council.
The two Committees in charge of climate change at the European Parliament are the ENVI Committee (Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) and the CLIM Committee (Temporary Committee on Climate Change).
CLIM Commitee Agenda for May 2007 - September 2008 here
CLIM Commitee Agenda for September 2008 - February 2009 here
CLIM Commitee Newsletters (since July 2007) here
The European Parliament meets and debates in public. Its decisions, positions and proceedings are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
What Does it Do?
The European Parliament has three main powers:
- Legislative power: as a co-legislator, together with the Council of Ministers (codecision procedure). The fact that the EP is directly elected by the citizens helps guarantee the democratic legitimacy of European law.
- Budgetary power: shares with the Council authority over the EU budget; it adopts or rejects the budget in its entirety
- Supervisory power: exercises democratic control over the other EU institutions (especially the Commission). It has the power to approve or reject the nomination of Commissioners, and it has the right to censure the Commission as a whole.
The European Parliament has three official seats: Brussels (Belgium), Luxembourg and Strasbourg (France). Luxembourg is home to the administrative offices (the ‘General Secretariat’). The monthly plenary sessions take place in Strasbourg and additional part-sessions in Brussels. Committee meetings and political group meetings are also held in Brussels.
The European Parliament decides its annual calendar of work on the basis of a proposal by the Conference of Presidents. The calendar is divided into plenary sittings (part-sessions) and meetings. It comprises:
- Twelve four-day part-sessions in Strasbourg and six additional two-day part-sessions in Brussels;
- Two weeks a month for meetings of parliamentary committees and interparliamentary delegations;
- One week a month for political group meetings;
- Four weeks a year where MEPs concentrate exclusively on constituency work
See the Parliament's calendar 2008 and 2009.
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Source: Europarl, Euractiv, Europa