The European Parliament (EP) is the only EU body directly elected by voters. It is one of the biggest democratic assemblies in the world.
In the beginning, as the Assembly, its role was only advisory. Starting with the Lisbon Treaty (2009) its competencies have been broadening. The number of areas, where the Parliament has the decisive voice on the same basis as the EU Council, has significantly increased. The EP together with the governments of EU countries is also the responsible for the entire EU budget.
The EP is also responsible for the confirmation and recalling of the EU Commission.
The EP’s main functions
The EP acts as co-legislator. It can use its legislative power in cooperation with the EU Council according to the standard legislative procedure. The EU budget is after being signed by the EP’s president. Afterward, the EP oversees the budget’s implementation.
The EP has controlling authority over the EU institutions. It authorizes or rejects the commissioners’ approval. It has the right to dismiss the EU Commission through the vote of no confidence. The EP controls the EU activities through written and oral enquiries addressed to the Commission and the Council. The Parliament empanels temporary committees and investigative committees, whose competencies are not only limited to the EU institutions’ activities. The committees carry out tasks connected to the implementation of EU policies by every EU government.
The Lisbon Treaty strengthened the role of the Parliament by giving it additional competencies equal to the Council of Ministers (Council of the European Union). The Lisbon Treaty:
- broadens normal legislative procedure in 40 new areas i.e.: agriculture, energy security, immigration, justice and internal matters, health and structural funds
- strengthens the EP’ role in the implementation of the EU budget
- gives MEPs the power to agree to various international agreements negotiated by the EU, i.e. international trade agreements
- implements new regulations on the access to information about the European Council activities, the rotating Council presidency and EU’s external activities
- gives the EP the authority to propose amendments to the treaties
- improves the controlling functions by giving the EP the power to choose the president of the EU Commission and to approve the members of the Commission.
EP competencies in practice:
In 1999, forcing 20 commissioners and Jacques Santer, the European Commission’s head to resign. The resignations were the result of finance irregularities detected by the Budget Control Commission of the Parliament.
In 2004, members of the EP objected to the nomination of Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione for a high position in the European Commission. The main objection was his conservative attitude to homosexuality and the role of women. As a result Buttiglione resigned.
There was a similar situation in 2010, when a group of MEPs opposed a Bulgarian candidate for the position of humanitarian aid commissioner among allegations of unclear financial interests and lack of competency. The position was taken by another Bulgarian candidate.