European Parliament

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An institution of the EU, formerly called the Assembly of the European Communities. Members of the European Parliament ( MEPs) are drawn from member states of the EU but group themselves politically rather than nationally. There are 785 seats of which the UK has 78. In the case of the UK, MEPs are elected under the European Assembly Elections Act 1978 for constituencies comprising two or more UK parliamentary constituencies.

The European Parliament's power and influence derive chiefly from its power to amend, and subsequently to adopt or reject, the EU's budget. The Parliament is consulted by the Council of the European Union on legislative proposals put to the Council by the European Commission; it gives opinions on these after debating reports from specialist committees, but these opinions are not binding. However, its powers in the legislative process were extended under the Single European Act 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty by the introduction of the cooperation, codecision, and assent procedures. The Parliament may also put questions to the Council and the Commission and, by a motion of censure requiring a special majority, can force the resignation of the whole Commission (but not of individual Commissioners). Under the Maastricht Treaty it can now veto the appointment of a new Commission.

The European Parliament holds its sessions in Strasbourg, but its Secretariat-General is in Luxembourg and its committees meet in Brussels. The elected Parliament serves a term of five years, after which elections are held.

Subjects: Law.

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