The European Parliament is composed of 751 members. Among them is the President, currently the Italian MEP David Sassoli. Members are elected by European citizens during the European Elections held in all 28 Member States every five years.
The EP, according to the Treaties, is located in Strasbourg, where the 12 monthly assemblies are held, including the session dedicated to the EU Annual Budget. However, the EP carries out its key activities in Brussels.
The General Secretariat, the office in charge of coordinating the legislative activity and organize Plenary Sessions and meetings, as well as other offices are based in Luxembourg.
With regards to its functioning, the work of the European Parliament focuses on two main phases:
- The first one is the legislative preparatory phase, which takes place in the 20 Parliamentary Committees and two subcommittees, each of which focuses on a given sector. The Committees analyze the legislative proposals and MEPs can submit amendments or reject them.
- During the Plenary Sessions, on the other hand, MEPs gather and express a final vote on the proposed legislation and amendments.
To these two phases, a third one follows known as the “trilogue” where the EP, the EU Council and the EU Commission further negotiations on the bill are carried out.
The juridical basis is disciplined by Articles 223-234 and 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE).
The EP is the representative body of all citizens. To guarantee full democratic legitimacy, the EP takes active part in the legislative process and exercises a political control on the other European institutions.
The EP also exercises constitutional competences and has ratifying powers. Its opinion is requested, for instance, on:
- any accession treaty of a new Member State;
- international agreements with financial implications for the Union;
- agreements that define a specific institutional framework;
- rules concerning electoral procedures;
- share recommendations or apply sanctions to a Member State;
- Review treaties or call for a concention to prepare the future amendment to a treaty.
With the Lisbon Treaty, the co-decision procedure for the adoption of legislative acts has become the ordinary procedure (ex art. 294 TFUE).
There are a series of special procedures it may adopt:
- The consultative procedure that continues to be applied in the cases listed in artt. 27, 41, 48 TUE and to the fiscal policy, competition, legislative harmonization unrelated to the internal market and some aspects of social policy.
- The approval procedure which is instead used to adopt new norms concerning discrimination.
The Maastricht Treaty has then allowed the EP to request to the Commission to present a legislative proposal. The EP and the Council are on the same level within the framework of the Annual Budgeting procedure: it takes part in the process since the preparatory phase, it approves it and monitors its execution. In addition, it must approve the multiyear financial plan.
The EP also has auditing powers:
- It examines the general report produced by the Commission (ex art 233 TFUE);
- It analyzes together with the Council, the delegate and execution acts of the Commission (ex artt. 290 e 291 TFUE);
- Since 1994 it approves the nomination of the European Commission President and hosts hearings of the designated Commissioners.
- With a 2/3 majority can express a vote of no confidence on the Commission;
- Each MEP can direct parliamentary queries to the President of the European Council, of the Council and of the Commission
- It can establish a temporary Committee to examine misdemeanors in the application of a EU right;
- It has the right to a constant information and can direct queries of recommendations to the Council. It must be consulted on key aspects and on the fundamental choices of foreign and security policy;
Finally, the EP has the right to appeal to the Court of Justice in case of treaty violations by another institution. Among its powers, it can request the opinion of the Court on the compatibility of a given international agreement with the treaty (ex. Art. 218 TFUE).
The EP organizes if necessary hearings with the representatives of successful European initiatives, under the guidance of the Committee on petitions.
The Lisbon Treaty states that the European mediator is elected by the EP.