The "parliamentarians are known in English as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). They are elected every five years by "universal adult suffrage and sit according to political allegiance; about a third are women. Before 1979 they were appointed by their national parliaments.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, "seats are allocated to each state according to population and the maximum number of members is set at 751 (however, as the President cannot vote while in the chair there will only be 750 voting members at any one time).
The seats are distributed according to ""degressive proportionality", i.e., the larger the state, the more citizens are represented per MEP. As a result, Maltese and Luxembourgish voters have roughly 10x more influence per voter than citizens of the six large countries.
As of 2014[update], Germany (80.9 million inhabitants) has 96 seats (previously 99 seats), i.e. one seat for 843,000 inhabitants. Malta (0.4 million inhabitants) has 6 seats, i.e. one seat for 70,000 inhabitants.
The new system implemented under the Lisbon Treaty, including revising the seating well before elections, was intended to avoid political "horse trading when the allocations have to be revised to reflect demographic changes.
Pursuant to this apportionment, the "constituencies are formed. In six EU member states (Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom), the national territory is divided into a number of constituencies. In the remaining member states, the whole country forms a single constituency. All member states hold elections to the European Parliament using various forms of "proportional representation.
Due to the delay in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, the "seventh parliament was elected under the lower Nice Treaty cap. A "small scale treaty amendment was ratified on 29 November 2011. This amendment brought in transitional provisions to allow the 18 additional MEPs created under the Lisbon Treaty to be elected or appointed before the 2014 election. Under the Lisbon Treaty reforms, Germany was the only state to lose members from 99 to 96. However, these seats were not removed until the 2014 election.
Salaries and expenses
Before 2009, members received the same salary as members of their national parliament. However, from 2009 a new members statute came into force, after years of attempts, which gave all members an equal monthly pay, of 8,020.53 euro each in 2014, subject to a European Union tax and which can also be taxed nationally. MEPs are entitled to a pension, paid by Parliament, from the age of 63. Members are also entitled to allowances for office costs and subsistence, and travelling expenses, based on actual cost.["needs update] Besides their pay, members are granted a number of privileges and "immunities. To ensure their free movement to and from the Parliament, they are accorded by their own states the facilities accorded to senior officials travelling abroad and, by other state governments, the status of visiting "foreign representatives. When in their own state, they have all the immunities accorded to national parliamentarians, and, in other states, they have immunity from "detention and "legal proceedings. However, immunity cannot be claimed when a member is found committing a criminal offence and the Parliament also has the right to strip a member of his immunity.
MEPs in Parliament are organised into seven different "parliamentary groups, including thirty non-attached members known as "non-inscrits. The two largest groups are the "European People's Party (EPP) and the "Socialists & Democrats (S&D). These two groups have dominated the Parliament for much of its life, continuously holding between 50 and 70 percent of the seats between them. No single group has ever held a majority in Parliament. As a result of being broad alliances of national parties, European group parties are very decentralised and hence have more in common with parties in federal states like Germany or the United States than unitary states like the majority of the EU states. Nevertheless, the European groups were actually more cohesive than their US counterparts between 2004 and 2009.
Groups are often based on a single "European political party such as the "socialist group (before 2009). However, they can, like the "liberal group, include more than one European party as well as national parties and independents. For a group to be recognised, it needs 25 MEPs from seven different countries. Once recognised, groups receive financial subsidies from the parliament and guaranteed seats on committees, creating an incentive for the formation of groups. However, some controversy occurred with the establishment of the short-lived "Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS) due to its ideology; the members of the group were far-right, so there were concerns about public funds going towards such a group. There were attempts to change the rules to block the formation of ITS, but they never came to fruition. The group was, however, blocked from gaining leading positions on committees — traditionally (by agreement, not a rule) shared among all parties. When this group engaged in infighting, leading to the withdrawal of some members, its size fell below the threshold for recognition causing its collapse.
Given that the Parliament does not form the government in the traditional sense of a Parliamentary system, its politics have developed along more consensual lines rather than "majority rule of competing parties and coalitions. Indeed, for much of its life it has been dominated by a "grand coalition of the "European People's Party and the "Party of European Socialists. The two major parties tend to co-operate to find a compromise between their two groups leading to proposals endorsed by huge majorities. However, this does not always produce agreement, and each may instead try to build other alliances, the EPP normally with other centre-right or right wing Groups and the PES with centre-left or left wing Groups. Sometimes, the Liberal Group is then in the pivotal position. There are also occasions where very sharp party political divisions have emerged, for example over the "resignation of the Santer Commission.
When the initial allegations against the Commission emerged, they were directed primarily against "Édith Cresson and "Manuel Marín, both socialist members. When the parliament was considering refusing to discharge the "Community budget, President "Jacques Santer stated that a no vote would be tantamount to a "vote of no confidence. The Socialist group supported the Commission and saw the issue as an attempt by the EPP to discredit their party ahead of the 1999 elections. Socialist leader, "Pauline Green MEP, attempted a vote of confidence and the EPP put forward counter motions. During this period the two parties took on similar roles to a government-"opposition dynamic, with the Socialists supporting the executive and EPP renouncing its previous coalition support and voting it down. Politicisation such as this has been increasing, in 2007 Simon Hix of the "London School of Economics noted that:
Our work also shows that politics in the European Parliament is becoming increasingly based around party and ideology. Voting is increasingly split along left-right lines, and the cohesion of the party groups has risen dramatically, particularly in the fourth and fifth parliaments. So there are likely to be policy implications here too.
During the fifth term, 1999 to 2004, there was a break in the grand coalition resulting in a centre-right coalition between the Liberal and People's parties. This was reflected in the Presidency of the Parliament with the terms being shared between the EPP and the ELDR, rather than the EPP and Socialists. In the following term the liberal group grew to hold 88 seats, the largest number of seats held by any third party in Parliament.
Elections have taken place, directly in every member-state, every five years since 1979. As of 2014[update] there have been eight elections. When a nation joins mid-term, a by-election will be held to elect their representatives. This has happened six times, most recently when Croatia joined in 2013. Elections take place across four days according to local custom and, apart from having to be proportional, the "electoral system is chosen by the member-state. This includes allocation of "sub-national constituencies; while most members have a national list, some, like the UK and France, divide their allocation between regions. Seats are allocated to member-states according to their population, since 2014 with no state having more than 96, but no fewer than 6, to maintain proportionality.
The most recent Union-wide elections to the European Parliament were the "European elections of 2014, held from 22 to 25 May 2014. They were the largest simultaneous transnational elections ever held anywhere in the world. The eighth term of Parliament started on 1 July 2014.
The proportion of MEPs elected in 2009 who were female was 35%; in 1979 it was just 16.5%.
There have been a number of proposals designed to attract greater public attention to the elections. One such innovation in the 2014 elections was that the "pan-European political parties fielded "candidates" for "president of the "Commission, the so-called Spitzenkandidaten (German, "leading candidate). However, European Union governance is based on a mixture of intergovernmental and supranational features: the President of the European Commission is nominated by the European Council, representing the governments of the member states, and there is no obligation for them to nominate the successful "candidate". The Lisbon Treaty merely states that they should take account of the results of the elections when choosing whom to nominate. The so-called Spitzenkandidaten were "Jean-Claude Juncker for the "European People's Party, "Martin Schulz for the "Party of European Socialists, "Guy Verhofstadt for the "Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, "Ska Keller and "José Bové jointly for the "European Green Party and "Alexis Tsipras for the "Party of the European Left.
Turnout has dropped consistently every year since the first election, and from 1999 it has been below 50%. In 2007 both "Bulgaria and Romania elected their MEPs in by-elections, having joined at the beginning of 2007. The Bulgarian and Romanian elections saw two of the lowest turnouts for European elections, just 28.6% and 28.3% respectively.
In England, Scotland and Wales, EP elections were originally held for a constituency MEP on a first-past-the-post basis. In 1999 the system was changed to a form of "PR where a large group of candidates would stand for a post within a very large regional constituency. One could vote for a party, but not a candidate (unless that party had a single candidate).
Each year the activities of the Parliament cycle between committee weeks where reports are discussed in committees and interparliamentary delegations meet, political group weeks for members to discuss work within their political groups and session weeks where members spend 3½ days in "Strasbourg for part-sessions. In addition six 2-day part-sessions are organised in "Brussels throughout the year. Four weeks are allocated as constituency week to allow members to do exclusively constituency work. Finally there are no meetings planned during the summer weeks. The Parliament has the power to meet without being convened by another authority. Its meetings are partly controlled by the treaties but are otherwise up to Parliament according to its own "Rules of Procedure" (the regulations governing the parliament).
During sessions, members may speak after being called on by the President. Members of the Council or Commission may also attend and speak in debates. Partly due to the need for translation, and the politics of consensus in the chamber, debates tend to be calmer and more polite than, say, the "Westminster system. Voting is conducted primarily by a show of hands, that may be checked on request by electronic voting. Votes of MEPs are not recorded in either case, however; that only occurs when there is a roll-call ballot. This is required for the final votes on legislation and also whenever a political group or 30 MEPs request it. The number of roll-call votes has increased with time. Votes can also be a completely secret ballot (for example, when the president is elected). All recorded votes, along with minutes and legislation, are recorded in the "Official Journal of the European Union and can be accessed online. Votes usually do not follow a debate, but rather they are grouped with other due votes on specific occasions, usually at noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. This is because the length of the vote is unpredictable and if it continues for longer than allocated it can disrupt other debates and meetings later in the day.
Members are arranged in a "hemicycle according to their political groups (in the Common Assembly, prior to 1958, members sat alphabetically) who are ordered mainly by left to right, but some smaller groups are placed towards the outer ring of the Parliament. All desks are equipped with microphones, headphones for translation and electronic voting equipment. The leaders of the groups sit on the front benches at the centre, and in the very centre is a podium for guest speakers. The remaining half of the circular chamber is primarily composed of the raised area where the President and staff sit. Further benches are provided between the sides of this area and the MEPs, these are taken up by the Council on the far left and the Commission on the far right. Both the Brussels and Strasbourg hemicycle roughly follow this layout with only minor differences. The hemicycle design is a compromise between the different Parliamentary systems. The British-based system has the different groups directly facing each other while the French-based system is a semicircle (and the traditional German system had all members in rows facing a rostrum for speeches). Although the design is mainly based on a semicircle, the opposite ends of the spectrum do still face each other. With access to the chamber limited, entrance is controlled by ushers who aid MEPs in the chamber (for example in delivering documents). The ushers can also occasionally act as a form of police in enforcing the President, for example in ejecting an MEP who is disrupting the session (although this is rare). The first head of protocol in the Parliament was French, so many of the duties in the Parliament are based on the French model first developed following the "French Revolution. The 180 ushers are highly visible in the Parliament, dressed in black "tails and wearing a silver chain, and are "recruited in the same manner as the "European civil service. The President is allocated a personal usher.
President and organisation
The President is essentially the "speaker of the Parliament and presides over the plenary when it is in session. The President's signature is required for all acts adopted by co-decision, including the EU budget. The President is also responsible for representing the Parliament externally, including in legal matters, and for the application of the rules of procedure. He or she is elected for two-and-a-half-year terms, meaning two elections per parliamentary term. The President is currently "Antonio Tajani MEP of the EPP.
In most countries, the protocol of the "head of state comes before all others; however, in the EU the Parliament is listed as the first institution, and hence the protocol of its President comes before any other European, or national, protocol. The gifts given to numerous visiting dignitaries depend upon the President. President "Josep Borrell MEP of Spain gave his counterparts a crystal cup created by an artist from Barcelona who had engraved upon it parts of the "Charter of Fundamental Rights among other things.
A number of notable figures have been President of the Parliament and its predecessors. The first President was "Paul-Henri Spaak MEP, one of the "founding fathers of the Union. Other founding fathers include "Alcide de Gasperi MEP and "Robert Schuman MEP. The two female Presidents were "Simone Veil MEP in 1979 (first President of the elected Parliament) and "Nicole Fontaine MEP in 1999, both Frenchwomen. The previous president, "Jerzy Buzek was the first "East-Central European to lead an EU institution, a former "Prime Minister of Poland who rose out of the "Solidarity movement in Poland that helped overthrow communism in the "Eastern Bloc.
During the election of a President, the previous President (or, if unable to, one of the previous Vice-Presidents) presides over the chamber. Prior to 2009, the "oldest member fulfilled this role but the rule was changed to prevent far-right French MEP "Jean-Marie Le Pen taking the chair.
Below the President, there are 14 "Vice-Presidents who chair debates when the President is not in the chamber. There are a number of other bodies and posts responsible for the running of parliament besides these speakers. The two main bodies are the "Bureau, which is responsible for budgetary and administration issues, and the "Conference of Presidents which is a governing body composed of the presidents of each of the parliament's political groups. Looking after the financial and administrative interests of members are five "Quaestors. In August 2002, Nichole Robichaux [née Braucksieker] became the first American citizen to intern for a member of the European Parliament—Monica Frassoni [Green Party].
As of 2014[update], the European Parliament budget was EUR 1.756 billion. A 2008 report on the Parliament's finances highlighted certain overspending and miss-payments. Despite some MEPs calling for the report to be published, Parliamentary authorities had refused until an MEP broke confidentiality and leaked it.
Committees and delegations
The Parliament has 20 "Standing Committees consisting of 25 to 71 MEPs each (reflecting the political make-up of the whole Parliament) including a chair, a bureau and secretariat. They meet twice a month in public to draw up, amend to adopt legislative proposals and reports to be presented to the plenary. The "rapporteurs for a committee are supposed to present the view of the committee, although notably this has not always been the case. In the events leading to the resignation of the Santer Commission, the rapporteur went against the "Budgetary Control Committee's narrow vote to discharge the budget, and urged the Parliament to reject it.
Committees can also set up sub-committees (e.g. the "Subcommittee on Human Rights) and temporary committees to deal with a specific topic (e.g. on "extraordinary rendition). The chairs of the Committees co-ordinate their work through the ""Conference of Committee Chairmen". When co-decision was introduced it increased the Parliament's powers in a number of areas, but most notably those covered by the "Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Previously this committee was considered by MEPs as a ""Cinderella committee"; however, as it gained a new importance, it became more professional and rigorous, attracting increasing attention to its work.
The nature of the committees differ from their national counterparts as, although smaller in comparison to those of the "United States Congress, the European Parliament's committees are unusually large by European standards with between eight and twelve dedicated members of staff and three to four support staff. Considerable administration, archives and research resources are also at the disposal of the whole Parliament when needed.
"Delegations of the Parliament are formed in a similar manner and are responsible for relations with Parliaments outside the EU. There are 34 delegations made up of around 15 MEPs, chairpersons of the delegations also cooperate in a conference like the committee chairs do. They include "Interparliamentary delegations" (maintain relations with Parliament outside the EU), "joint parliamentary committees" (maintaining relations with parliaments of states which are candidates or associates of the EU), the delegation to the "ACP EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the delegation to the "Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly. MEPs also participate in other international activities such as the "Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, the "Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue and through "election observation in third countries.
The "Intergroups in the European Parliament are informal fora which gather MEPs from various political groups around any topic. They do not express the view of the European Parliament. They serve a double purpose: to address a topic which is transversal to several committees and in a less formal manner. Their daily secretariat can be run either through the office of MEPs or through interest groups, be them corporate lobbies or NGOs. The favored access to MEPs which the organization running the secretariat enjoys can be one explanation to the multiplication of Intergroups in the 1990s. They are now strictly regulated and financial support, direct or otherwise (via Secretariat staff, for example) must be officially specified in a declaration of financial interests. Also Intergroups are established or renewed at the beginning of each legislature through a specific process. Indeed, the proposal for the constitution or renewal of an Intergroup must be supported by at least 3 political groups whose support is limited to a specific number of proposals in proportion to their size (for example, for the legislature 2014-2019, the EEP or S&D political groups could support 22 proposals whereas the Greens/EFA or the EFDD political groups only 7).
Translation and interpretation
Speakers in the European Parliament are entitled to speak in any of the 24 official "languages of the European Union, ranging from English and German to "Maltese and Irish. Simultaneous interpreting is offered in all plenary sessions, and all final texts of legislation are translated. With twenty-four languages, the European Parliament is the most multilingual parliament in the world and the biggest employer of interpreters in the world (employing 350 full-time and 400 free-lancers when there is higher demand). Citizens may also address the Parliament in "Basque, "Catalan/Valencian and "Galician.
Usually a language is translated from a foreign tongue into a translator's native tongue. Due to the large number of languages, some being minor ones, since 1995 interpreting is sometimes done the opposite way, out of an interpreter's native tongue (the "retour" system). In addition, a speech in a minor language may be interpreted through a third language for lack of interpreters ("relay" interpreting) —for example, when interpreting out of "Estonian into "Maltese. Due to the complexity of the issues, interpretation is not word for word. Instead, interpreters have to convey the political meaning of a speech, regardless of their own views. This requires detailed understanding of the politics and terms of the Parliament, involving a great deal of preparation beforehand (e.g. reading the documents in question). Difficulty can often arise when MEPs use profanities, jokes and word play or speak too fast.
While some see speaking their native language as an important part of their identity, and can speak more fluently in debates, interpretation and its cost has been criticised by some. A 2006 report by "Alexander Stubb MEP highlighted that by only using English, French and German costs could be reduced from "€118,000 per day (for 21 languages then—"Romanian, "Bulgarian and "Croatian having not yet been included) to €8,900 per day. Many see the ideal single language as being English due to its widespread usage, although there has been a small-scale campaign to make French the reference language for all legal texts, due to the claim that it is more clear and precise for legal purposes.
Because the proceedings are translated into all of the official EU languages, they have been used to make a multilingual "corpus known as "Europarl. It is widely used to train "statistical machine translation systems.
The Parliament is based in three different cities with numerous buildings. A protocol attached to the "Treaty of Amsterdam requires that 12 plenary sessions be held in "Strasbourg (none in August but two in September), which is the Parliament's official seat, while extra part sessions as well as committee meetings are held in "Brussels. Luxembourg hosts the "Secretariat of the European Parliament. The European Parliament is the only assembly in the world with more than one meeting place and one of the few that does not have the power to decide its own location.
The Strasbourg seat is seen as a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany, the Strasbourg region having been fought over by the two countries in the past. However, the cost and inconvenience of having two seats is questioned. While Strasbourg is the official seat, and sits alongside the "Council of Europe, "Brussels is home to nearly all other major EU institutions, with the majority of Parliament's work being carried out there. Critics have described the two-seat arrangement as a "travelling circus", and there is a strong movement to establish Brussels as the sole seat. This is because the other political institutions (the Commission, Council and European Council) are located there, and hence Brussels is treated as the '"capital' of the EU. This movement has received strong backing through numerous figures, including the Commission First-Vice President who stated that "something that was once a very positive symbol of the EU reuniting France and Germany has now become a negative symbol—of wasting money, bureaucracy and the insanity of the Brussels institutions". The "Green Party has also noted the environmental cost in a study led by "Jean Lambert MEP and "Caroline Lucas MEP; in addition to the extra 200 million euro spent on the extra seat, there are over 20,268 tonnes of additional carbon dioxide, undermining any environmental stance of the institution and the Union. The campaign is further backed by a million-strong online petition started by "Cecilia Malmström MEP. In August 2014, an assessment by the European Court of Auditors calculated that relocating the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament to Brussels would save €113.8 million per year. In 2006, there were allegations of irregularity in the charges made by the city of Strasbourg on buildings the Parliament rented, thus further harming the case for the Strasbourg seat.
Most MEPs prefer Brussels as a single base. A poll of MEPs found 89% of the respondents wanting a single seat, and 81% preferring Brussels. Another, more academic, survey found 68% support. In July 2011, an absolute majority of MEPs voted in favour of a single seat. In early 2011, the Parliament voted to scrap one of the Strasbourg sessions by holding two within a single week. The "mayor of Strasbourg officially reacted by stating "we will counter-attack by upturning the adversary's strength to our own profit, as a "judoka would do." However, as Parliament's seat is now fixed by the treaties, it can only be changed by the Council acting unanimously, meaning that France could veto any move. The former "French President "Nicolas Sarkozy has stated that the Strasbourg seat is "non-negotiable", and that France has no intention of surrendering the only EU Institution on French soil. Given France's declared intention to veto any relocation to Brussels, some MEPs have advocated "civil disobedience by refusing to take part in the monthly exodus to Strasbourg.
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