European Parliament Role

European Parliament Role

Content about European Parliament Role from the publication “The ABC of European Union law” (2010, European Union) by Klaus-Dieter Borchardt.

1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Context of European Parliament Role in the European Union

However, the reason for this deficit is that, quite simply, no government in the normal sense exists at EU level. Instead, the functions analogous to government provided for in the Union Treaties are performed by the Council and the European Commission according to a form of division of labour. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Lisbon gave Parliament extensive powers in respect of appointments to the Commission, ranging from election by Parliament of the President of the Commission on the recommendation of the European Council, to Parliament’s vote of approval of the full college of Commissioners (‘right of investiture’). However, Parliament has no such influence over the membership of the Council, which is subject to parliamentary control only insofar as each of its members, as a national Minister, is answerable to the national parliament.

More about European Parliament Role in the European Union

The role of the European Parliament in the EU’s legislative process has increased considerably. The raising of the co-decision procedure to the level of ordinary legislative procedure has, in effect, turned the European Parliament into a ‘co-legislator’ alongside the Council.

Other Aspects

In the ordinary legislative procedure, Parliament can not only put forward amendments to legislation at various readings but also, within certain limits, get them accepted by the Council. Union legislation cannot be passed without agreement between the Council and the European Parliament.


Traditionally, Parliament has also played a major role in the budgetary procedure. The Treaty of Lisbon further extended the budgetary powers of the European Parliament, stipulating that Parliament must approve the multiannual financial plan and giving it co-decision powers on all expenditure (compulsory and non-compulsory expenditure are no longer distinguished).

Last Remarks

Parliament has a right of assent to all major international agreements concerning an area covered by co-decision, and to the Accession Treaties concluded with new Member States laying down the conditions of admission.

The supervisory powers of the European Parliament have also grown significantly over time. They are exercised mainly through the fact that the Commission must answer to Parliament, defend its proposals before it and present it with an annual report on the activities of the EU for debate. Parliament can, by a two-thirds majority of its members, pass a motion of censure and thereby compel the Commission to resign as a body (Article 234 TFEU). Several such motions have been put before the Parliament, but none has yet been even near achieving the required majority. The resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999 was triggered by Parliament’s refusal to discharge it with regard to financial management; the motion of censure that had also been brought was unsuccessful, although only by small margin. Since in practice the Council also answers parliamentary questions, Parliament has the opportunity for direct political debate with two major institutions. These supervisory powers of Parliament have since been boosted. It is now also empowered to set up special Committees of Inquiry to look specifically at alleged cases of infringement of Community law or maladministration. A committee of this kind was used, for example, to look into the Commission’s responsibility for the delay in responding to ‘mad cow disease’ in the United Kingdom, which also represented a threat to human life and health. Also written into the Treaties is the right of any natural or legal person to address petitions to Parliament, which are then dealt with by a standing Committee on Petitions. Finally, Parliament has also made use of its power to appoint an Ombudsman to whom complaints about maladministration in the activities of Union institutions or bodies, with the exception of the Court of Justice, can be referred. The Ombudsman may conduct enquiries and must inform the institution or body concerned of such action, and must submit to Parliament a report on the outcome of his or her inquiries.






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