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Institutional and Legal Affairs, PUBLICATIONS

The powers of the European Parliament

Written by Laura Tilindyte,

EU flags waving in front of European Parliament building. Brussels, Belgium

© Grecaud Paul / Fotolia

Since its inception in 1951, the European Parliament has come a long way. Initially a consultative body composed of delegations of national parliaments, it became a directly elected institution, obtained budgetary and legislative powers, and now exercises influence over most aspects of EU affairs. Together with representatives of national governments, who sit in the Council, Parliament co-decides on European legislation, in what could be seen as a bicameral legislature at EU level. It can reject or amend the European Commission’s proposals before adopting them so that they become law. Together with the Council of the EU, it adopts the EU budget and controls its implementation.

Another core set of European Parliament prerogatives concerns the scrutiny of the EU executive – mainly the Commission. Such scrutiny can take many forms, including parliamentary questions, committees of inquiry and special committees, and scrutiny of delegated and implementing acts. Parliament has made use of these instruments to varying degrees. Parliament has the power to dismiss the Commission (motion of censure), and it plays a significant role in the latter’s appointment process.

Parliament has a say over the very foundations of the EU. Its consent is required before any new country joins the EU, and before a withdrawal treaty is concluded if a country decides to leave it. Most international agreements entered into by the EU with third countries also require Parliament’s consent. Parliament can initiate Treaty reform, and also the ‘Article 7(1) TEU’ procedure, aimed at determining whether there is a (risk of) serious breach of EU values by a Member State.


Read this briefing on ‘The powers of the European Parliament‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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