Why is the European Parliament important?

With next year’s European Parliament elections, the phrase “I am a European citizen and I have rights” becomes even more relevant.

Why do we need to know what the European Parliament does?

Because it is the only institution of the Union whose members are elected by direct, free, universal and secret ballot by citizens. The Parliament, as a political, co-legislative and co-budgetive body, directly serves the interests for the residents of the EU Member States and it is assisted by an Economic and Social Committee and a Committee of the Regions. The Parliament also elects the European Ombudsman, a mediator who investigates possible maladministration within the Union institutions and deals with petitions from citizens. It is important to point out that the increase in competences and authority took place in 2009, with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, when the European Parliament became equal to the Council of Ministers.

The European Parliament has three headquarters – Brussels, where the parliamentary committees meet, Strasbourg, where the plenary sessions are held, and Luxembourg, where the Secretary-General is based.

How the European parliament works?

The Parliament is composed on the principle of proportionality, according to the size of the national population. Therefore, Romania now has allocated 33 seats. MEPs are organised into 8 political groups, plus independent MEPs, without any affliation. Their term of office is 5 years and for the President is 2.5 years. There are a number of incompatibilities for potential candidates, such as being a member of a national parliament or government, an officer of the EU institutions, a judge at the CJEU, an European Ombudsman etc. The organisational structure of the Parliament features 3 types of committees – permanent (20 in number, focusing on certain areas), temporary, as well as committees of inquiry. Romania has, like the other Member States, a European Parliament Liaison Office, where events are organised for information or educational purposes.

Which is the working method?

Although most legislative proposals generally emerge from the European Commission, the head of executive, they have to be debated and approved (or rejected) by the Parliament. This is called the ordinary legislative procedure, where the Council of Ministers is equally involved. A legislation draft will go through 3 readings in Parliament, depending on the changes that are made by the Council. As a result, after the first reading in Parliament, the Council can adopt or amend the text of the law. If it is amended, the proposal will be sent back to Parliament for a second reading. When the Parliament modifies it, the second reading in the Council will proceed. If the Council does not adopt all the amendments, the Conciliation Committee procedure will be opened. This Committee is made up by an equal number of representatives from the two institutions mentioned above and its aim is to reach a common position. Once agreement has been reached, we will have a third reading in Parliament, where the joint text is forwarded to the plenary for the final vote, with no further amendments possible. If it gets the vote, the Council’s opinion will be required again. Finally, the act will be signed by the presidents of both institutions and published in the Official Journal in all 24 languages of the Union to gain force and effectivity.

The Parliament has also the last word in the budgetary procedure, giving final consent to the adoption of acts concerning the finances of Member States, even though the Commission is the budget administrator. The Parliament cooperates with the Court of Auditors to give discharge to the Commission for the budget`s execution.

What represents the advisory opinions?

The Parliament also issues advisory opinions in areas such as competition and the internal market. This type of opinion must be requested, but is not required to follow.

Another type of opinion issued by Parliament is the assent opinion. For this, both the request and compliance are mandatory. The areas where the law demands assent are of the utmost importance for the proper functioning of the Union – association and accession agreements with the EU, serious infringements of fundamental human rights, combating discrimination and withdrawal from the EU.

Among other duties, the European Parliament participates in the appointment or dismissal of members of the EU institutions (e.g. European Commission, European Ombudsman, Court of Justice of the European Union, Court of Auditors). The most important effect of this prerogative is the possibility of dismissing members of the Commission through a motion of censure. Given that, scrutiny of the executive can result in a block resignation.

Alina Marin

Legal Intern @ R&R Partners

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