European Parliament [January 21, 2011]   [open pdf - 213KB]

From the Summary: "The 736-member European Parliament (EP) is a key institution of the European Union (EU), a unique political and economic partnership composed of 27 member states. The EP is the only EU institution that is directly elected. The EP plays a role in the EU's legislative and budgeting processes, and works closely with the two other main EU bodies, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers). Although the EP does not formally initiate EU legislation, it shares legislative power with the Council of Ministers in many policy areas, giving it the right to accept, amend, or reject proposed EU laws. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) serve five-year terms. The most recent EP elections were held in June 2009. The EP currently has seven political groups, which caucus according to political ideology rather than nationality, plus a number of 'non-attached' or independent members. The EP has 20 standing committees that are key actors in the adoption of EU legislation and a total of 41 delegations that maintain international parliament-to-parliament relations. The EP is led by a President, who oversees its work and represents the EP externally. Once limited to being a consultative assembly, the EP has accumulated more power over time. Experts assert that the EU's latest effort at institutional reform--the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2009--significantly increases the relative power of the EP within the EU. The Lisbon Treaty gives the EP a say equal to that of the member states in the Council of Ministers over the vast majority of EU legislation (with some exceptions in areas such as tax matters and foreign policy), as well as the right to decide on the allocation of the EU budget jointly with the Council. The treaty also gives the EP the power to approve or reject international agreements and expands the EP's decision-making authority over trade-related issues."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RS21998
Public Domain
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