The European Parliament Page: 1 of 5
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Order Code RS21998
Updated May 21, 2007
CRS Report for Congress
The European Parliament
Specialist in European Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The 785-member, directly-elected European Parliament (EP) is a key institution of
the 27-member European Union (EU). Once limited to being a consultative assembly,
the EP has accumulated more power over time. Currently, it plays a role in the EU's
legislative and budgeting processes, and exercises general supervision over other EU
bodies. Ties between the EP and the U.S. Congress are long-standing, and EP-
Congressional exchanges are expected to continue in the 110th Congress. This report
will be updated as events warrant. Also see CRS Report RS21372, The European
Union: Questions and Answers, by Kristin Archick.
Role of the European Parliament
The 785-member, directly-elected European Parliament is a key institution of the
European Union. The EU is a treaty-based, institutional framework that defines and
manages economic and political cooperation among its 27 member states (Austria,
Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the
Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the
United Kingdom). Once limited to being a consultative assembly, the EP has
accumulated more power over time. Currently, it plays a role in the EU's legislative and
budgeting processes, and exercises general supervision over the work of the two other
main EU bodies, the Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers) and the
European Commission. However, the EP is not a legislative body in the traditional sense.
The EP cannot initiate legislation; that right rests solely with the Commission, which
functions as the EU's executive and guarantor of the EU treaties. The Council, the EU's
main decision-making body composed of ministers from the national governments, enacts
legislation based on Commission proposals, after it consults with the Parliament.
process has expanded steadily
decisions within the Council
voting rather than unanimity to
The role of the European Parliament in the legislative
over time as the scope of EU policy has grown. As more
of Ministers have become subject to qualified majority
allow for greater speed and efficiency of decision-making,
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The European Parliament, report, May 21, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc806022/m1/1/: accessed July 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.