- European Parliament
a deliberative and legislative assembly of the European Community that advises member nations on policy matters.
* * *Inaugurated in 1958 as the Common Assembly, the European Parliament originally consisted of representatives selected by the national parliaments of member countries. Beginning in 1979, members of the Parliament, who now number more than 700, were elected by direct universal suffrage to terms of five years. The number of members per country varies depending on population. The Parliament's leadership is shared by a president and 14 vice presidents, elected for 30-month terms. The EU Council of Ministers, which represents the member states, consults the Parliament, which is empowered to discuss whatever matters it wishes. The Parliament's powers were expanded with passage of the Maastricht Treaty (1993). Although it has veto power in most areas relating to economic integration and budgetary policy, it remains subordinate to the Council of Ministers and does not function with the authority of a national legislature such as the U.S. Congress or the British House of Commons.
* * *▪ European organizationlegislative assembly of the European Union (EU). Inaugurated in 1958 as the Common Assembly, the European Parliament originally consisted of representatives selected by the national parliaments of EU member countries. Beginning in 1979, members of the Parliament, who now number more than 750, were elected by direct universal suffrage to terms of five years. The number of members per country varies depending on population. For example, Germany has 99 members, the most of any country, while Malta has only 5.Members sit in political, rather than national, groups. Transnational groups include the Party of European Socialists (European Socialists, Party of), the European People's Party, and the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party (European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party). The Parliament meets annually for about 12 one-week plenary sessions in Strasbourg, France. Most other work (e.g., committee meetings) takes place in Brussels. The Bureau, which is responsible for the Parliament's budgetary, administrative, and organizational matters, is headed by a president and 14 vice presidents who are elected from among Parliament members to terms of 30 months. The Parliament is subdivided into 17 specialized committees, including those on foreign affairs, budgets, agriculture, economic and monetary affairs, employment, women's rights, citizens' freedoms and rights, the environment, and regional affairs. Temporary committees also are established on occasion to address issues of particular concern. The Parliament is assisted in its work by a Secretariat, which spends much of its time translating and interpreting between the European Union's 23 official languages.The powers of the European Parliament, which originally was only a consultative body, have increased in some areas as integration has proceeded. For example, the Parliament now exercises veto power in most areas relating to economic integration and budgetary policy. However, in some areas of significant concern to members, such as agriculture and tax harmonization, its role is more marginal. The body also serves as a democratic check on other EU institutions. In particular, it must approve and is empowered to remove the president, the primary EU executive, of one of the EU's four major governing bodies: the Commission. The Parliament also has the power to censure the Commission with a two-thirds vote of its members, thereby forcing the Commission to resign. Although a censure has never been voted, the entire Commission resigned rather than face such a motion in 1999.
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