The European Parliament, what does it do?

Written by Semra Tosuni

Reading time 5 minutes

First article of a series; EU’s institutions, how do they work? 

What is European Parliament doing ?

The European Parliament has three main roles :

  • Legislative
  • Supervisory
  • Budgetary

Before that, the European Parliament had only deliberative powers. It was seized of major issues for debate, and could take non-binding decisions. Parliament also had to be consulted, failing which it constituted a formal defect liable to lead to the annulment of an act, as indicated by the European Court of Justice in its 1980 Roquette ruling. This was a way of involving Parliament in decision-making within the Union, but the Council was not bound by its opinion.

The European Parliament also had a power of control, since it monitors the actions of those who take decisions, including the European Commission and the Council of the Union (committees of inquiry under Article 226 TFEU, and written and oral questions to the Commission or Council under Article 230 TFEU).

The Lisbon Treaty gives the European Parliament a central role within the EU. The Parliament becomes co-legislator with the Council of the European Union, and also has budgetary authority. The Parliament is also involved in the conclusion of external agreements (Article 218 TFEU). The European Parliament also elects the President of the European Commission (Article 17(7) TEU). The European Parliament thus plays a central role in the operation of the European Union.

Strasbourg EU Parliament

Strasbourg, France – EU Parliament

Why it’s important ?

The European Parliament represents citizens of all 27 member-states. Indeed, it is composed of members elected in the 27 member-states of the European Union.

The Parliament was established in 1952 as Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community then in 1962 as European Parliament. The European Parliament first elections were held in 1979.

Since 1979, members of European Parliament have been elected directly thanks to the mechanisms of universal suffrage for a five-year period. Therefore, it plays an important part on the respect of Democracy. As you may know, Democracy is inscripted as a value of European Union in article 2 of the European Union Treaty.

Today, since the 9th legislature (2019-2024), the European People’s Party (EPP, center-right, 187 members) and the Social Democrats (S&D, 148 members) remain the two largest groups, despite a significant drop in the numer of their members. The new centrist RenewEurope group is the 3rd largest force in the Chamber. There are actually 705 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and a President. The President is actually Roberta Metsola.

However, all european citizens are not represented with the same proportions because the number of seats available to each State in the European Parliament is determined according to a principle of degressive proportionality. This means that while there is a relationship of proportionality between the size of the State and the number of seats, this relationship of proportionality is not linear, in the sense that large States have proportionally fewer seats than small States.

That shows us how important is this EU institution and the importance also to take part in the European Parliament elections.

What is the role of all member states ?

During the elections, each member state can decide on the form its election will take. There are some differences about the voting age depending the country. In fact, in most member-states, the voting age is 18 but in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Malta, the voting age is 16 and 17 in Greece.

The voting age does have an impact on the european youth. Indeed, having the right to vote at a young age such as 16 shows that young people can be involved in democraty and their opinion matters.

However, the most recent elections saw a significant 50% increase in youth participation compared to those held in 2014. The mobilization of young people and other categories of the population is thus very important in view of the direct impact that European elections have within their legal order. As mentioned above, various resolutions and acts are adopted within this European institution.

There is also a difference in mobilization between countries where voting is a duty, and those where it is a right. In Belgium, Bulgaria and Greece, for example, voting is a duty. Citizens are obliged to go to the polls and take part in elections.

The impact of the European Parliament

In particular, the European Parliament plays a central role in protecting rights and freedoms within member states.

For example, the European Media Freedom Act was adopted by MEPs on Tuesday October 3, 2023. The adoption of this act strengthens the protection of journalists and the media by obliging member states to guarantee media pluralism and protect media independence from all forms of interference, particularly political. These European protections are fundamental to the proper functioning of democracies and contribute to respect for the rule of law.

Being a law student at Jean Moulin University in Lyon France has brought to Semra her interest for human rights and the human condition in the world. After getting her bachelor’s degree in Public Law in France, she wishes to carry out a master’s degree in European law. She studied International law, Humanitarian law, Human rights, and also European policy. Semra is the vice president of Poli’gones, a student organization attached to Lyon University. Being involved in CoSE gives her the opportunity to be part of the change and also to share her knowledge by writing articles about different topics in order to raise awareness.


Books :

Union européenne, Jean-Claude ZARKA, GULIANO, 8e edition 2021-2022