The European Parliament elections are getting closer and closer, so that’s why it is good to ask yourself a questions what really is the European Parliament and how it works. Although I won’t go into details like the history of this institution because you can find relevant information in the Internet on your own. The goal is to provide you with the most important facts and figures and present the topic in a different way.
A brief insight
The European Parliament is the only body within the European Union which is directly elected by the citizens of the EU. It debates the proposals from the Commission and can amend them. Together with the Council of Ministers adopts EU laws. EP lays in the so called legislative triangle along with the European Commission and the Council of the EU(Council of Ministers). The most important task of this institution is legislation. Since the adoption of Lisbon Treaty it is also allowed to initiate law drafts directly, which makes democratic process more transparent. Another task is connected with EU budget adoption, but it has to be just partially agreed to the Commission. What is more, the overall control of EU activities is also one of its duties. If you ask about headquarters of the European Parliament the official seat is Strasbourg(France) but is has two other places to work: Brussels(Belgium) and Luxembourg. Plenary sessions take place in Strasbourg 12 times per year, additional
plenary sessions and committee meetings are held in Brussels. A short description of its essence would be that EP represents the people of the EU whose employees(MEP’s) are directly elected by EU citizens. But how they get elected? The answer comes next…
Members of the European Parliament – those who we’ll vote for
The abbreviation MEP stands for Member of the European Parliament, that is the full name, in some member states shortened to “eurodeputy” or other similar terms. How it looks like when it comes to the elections? Well, in each member state national parties appoints their own candidates but there could be also not affiliated candidates – it means such a candidate doesn’t represent any of political parties. It gets more complicated in the European Parliament where national parties decide what political group they will join out of 7 (e.g. European Peoples Party or Greens). The elections itself are held every 5 years. How do we know how many members there can be? Currently, after Croatian accession we have 766 MEP’s but this number has to be decreased due to changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, which are as follows:
Maximum number of MEP’s will be 750 + its President(without the right to vote)
Maximum number of MEP’s from one country: 96
Minimal number of MEP’s from one country which is 6
Due to those changes 12 countries will lose 1 deputy, except for Germany which will lose 3 seats and the number of its MEP’s will be reduced from 99 to 96.
But how is it so that one country has more MEP’s than another? It is up to each Member State how the voting procedures will look like, except rules like proportional representation, direct universal suffrage and degressive proportionality. The last one means that the more population a member state has, the more seats it will get as a result of the elections. For instance, Germany is the most populous state in the EU so it will get 96 (maximum) seats, while Malta will get 6 of them because it’s the smallest state in population.
Money, money, money…
One of the most frequently asked questions is how much an MEP earn? The rules are clearly specified from 2005 in the Statute for Members of the European Parliament. The amount of the MEP’s salary is set at 38,5% of the basic salary of a judge at the Court of Justice of the EU. Currently it is 6 250€ after tax + general expenditure allowance (e.g. office management costs) set at 4 299€. Additionally, every deputy gets special diet 305€/daily when in official business like a plenary session of the Parliament, the Commission or political group meeting. Let’s assume there was 10 meetings like this and as a result MEP will get 3 050€. There are also annual travel allowances for bearing the costs of transport at maximum 4 243€ per year.
Staff arrangements costs that can be connected with hiring assistants also exists. MEP’s has a right to chose its staff(except family members) but the EP pays them, non of these money goes directly to MEP’s. It is fixed at 21 209€ per month.
European Parliament gets more and more importance in EU institutional system and not voting at all weakens its possibilities and decrease its potential. Abandoning your right to vote will not lead to change and as a result the mandates will go to wrong, less qualified people. Do you want to be represented by someone who do not know any foreign language or do not know how to act properly, thinking only about his money? I guess no. So be smart and go to the European Parliament Elections (22-25 May), use your right to vote this month. Remember, if you do not vote, you don’t have any right to complain!