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The European Parliament

The European Parliament - Europarl or EP - is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union. Together with the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world. The Parliament is currently composed of 754 Members of the European Parliament, who represent the second largest democratic electorate in the world - after the Parliament of India and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009).

It has been directly elected every five years by universal suffrage since 1979. However, turnout at European Parliament elections has fallen consecutively at each election since that date, and has been under 50% since 1999. Turnout in 2009 stood at 43% of all European voters, ranging from 90% in Luxembourg and Belgium, where compulsory voting is used, to 20% in Slovakia. Turnout was under 50% in 18 out of 27 member states.

Although the European Parliament has legislative power that the Council and Commission do not possess, it does not formally possess legislative initiative, as most national parliaments of European Union member states do. Parliament is the "first institution" of the EU and shares equal legislative and budgetary powers with the Council. It likewise has equal control over the EU budget. Finally, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, is accountable to Parliament. In particular, Parliament elects the President of the Commission, and approves or rejects the appointment of the Commission as a whole. It can subsequently force the Commission as a body to resign by adopting a motion of censure.

The Parliament, like the other institutions, was not designed in its current form when it first met on 10 September 1952. One of the oldest common institutions, it began as the "Common Assembly" of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). It was a consultative assembly of 78 parliamentarians drawn from the national parliaments of member states, having no legislative powers. The change since its foundation was highlighted by Professor David Farrell of the University of Manchester. Its development since its foundation is a testament to the evolution of the union's structures without one clear "master plan". Some such as Tom Reid of theWashington Post said of the union, "nobody would have deliberately designed a government as complex and as redundant as the EU". Even the Parliament's two seats, which have switched several times, are a result of various agreements or lack of agreements.

The parliamentarians are known in English as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). They are elected every five years by universal adult suffrage and sit according to political allegiance; about a third are women. Before 1979 they were appointed by their national parliaments. Under the Lisbon Treaty, seats are allocated to each state according to population and the maximum number of members is set at 751. However, as the President cannot vote while in the chair there will only be 750 voting members at any one time). The seats are distributed according to "degressive proportionality", i.e., the larger the state, the more citizens are represented per MEP. Thus, Maltese and Luxembourgian voters have roughly 10x more influence than citizens of the six large countries. It is intended that the new system implemented under the Lisbon Treaty, including revising the seating well before elections, will avoid political horse trading when the allocations have to be revised to reflect demographic changes.

Mission
Representing the citizens of Europe, debating the big European issues which matter to them, voting European laws to make their lives better and making the European Union accountable to them.

Company Overview Members of the European Parliament make decisions which affect you directly. The car you drive, the air you breathe, the mobile phone in your pocket, the food you eat, the water you drink, the worker you employ, the bank you borrow from, the waste you discard... The European Parliament is co-legislator for most of Europe's laws. It is a place where people from 27 member states come together to disagree, a place where political ideas and ideals meet, sometimes to clash, sometimes to be reconciled. Alliances are formed, deals are struck, compromises made, in other words, it's the usual, sometimes glorious, sometimes inglorious, business of democratic politics.

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Parlamentarium

Parliamentwatch