European Parliament - Task and Powers of the General Assembly


Every five years Europe’s 490 million citizens select their members of the European parliament. Since 1979 MEPs have been elected directly by the people. Every citizen of a member country can vote, wherever they live. Even though it does not have the power that national parliaments have, the European Parliament influences the lives of Europe’s citizens.

The European Parliament has 785 members from 27 countries. They sit together in political groups, not in country blocks. The two biggest groups are the Christian Democrats or Conservatives, with 278 seats and the Socialist with currently 216 seats. Other groups are the Liberals, Nationalists, the Greens and other smaller parties.

Each country elects a certain number of MEP’s, depending on their population. Germany, for example has 99 MEPs, whereas small countries, like Malta only have 5 MEPs.

The parliament gets together in Strasbourg but most of the MEPs do their work in Brussels.

The European Parliament has three main tasks.

  • Together with the Council it passes laws. Even though it does not have very much power there are some areas in which the Council must ask Parliament for approval. A new country, for example, cannot become a member of the European Union without Parliament’s approval.
  • It oversees the work of the other EU organs, especially the Commission. Before a new commissioner can begin their job parliament has to approve. MEPs can ask questions and there are regular meetings between parliament members and the Commission.
  • It decides and monitors how the EU spends money.


When the new Treaty of Lisbon is passed by all member states the European Parliament will get more rights and become more of a real parliament than it is now.


European Parliament meets in Strasbourg

Meeting place of the European Parliament in Strasbourg - Grzegorz Jereczek


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Related Topics



  • approval = to officially accept or say yes to something
  • certain =fixed
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • Council of the EU = the organ that makes most of the decisions in the EU
  • currently = at the moment
  • depending = here: not always the same, decided by the number of people a country has
  • elect = choose, vote for
  • European Commission = it carries out laws and makes sure they are obeyed
  • even though = while
  • influence = to have an effect on
  • law = set of rules in a country
  • MEP = Member of the European Parliament
  • monitor = oversee, control
  • organ = institution
  • oversee = check, control
  • regular = something that happens often, every week, day or month
  • seat = place, member
  • task = job
  • whereas = while