The European Parliament represents, in the words of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, 'the peoples of the States brought together in the European Community'. Some 375 million European citizens in 15 countries are now involved in the process of European integration through their 626 representatives in the European Parliament.
The first direct elections to the European Parliament were held in June 1979 when, 34 years after the end of Second World War, for the first time in history, the peoples of the nations of Europe, once torn apart by war, went to the polls to elect the members of a single parliament. Europeans could have devised no more powerful symbol of reconciliation.
The European Parliament, which derives its legitimacy from direct universal suffrage and is elected every five years, has steadily acquired greater influence and power through a series of treaties. These treaties, particularly the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, have transformed the European Parliament from a purely consultative assembly into a legislative parliament, exercising powers similar to those of the national parliaments. Today the European Parliament, as an equal partner with the Council of Ministers, passes the majority of European laws - laws that affect the lives of Europe's citizens.
Members of the European Parliament
The European Parliament has 626 Members. The number of Members per state is laid down in the Treaty.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been elected by direct universal suffrage since 1979 and at subsequent five year intervals. They are elected under a system of proportional representation. Elections are held either on a regional basis, as for example in the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium, on a national basis, as in France, Spain, and Denmark, or under a mixed system as in Germany. In Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg voting is compulsory. A common core of democratic rules applies everywhere: these include the right to vote at 18, equality of men and women, and the principle of the secret ballot.
Since the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993 every citizen of an EU member state who lives in another country of the Union may vote or stand for election in their country of residence.
In 1979 16.5% of MEPs were women, and this figure has risen steadily over successive parliamentary terms, reaching 27.5% on 1 January 1996 and 29.7% after the 1999 elections.
Composition of the European Parliament
The number of Members per state is laid down by the Treaties. In the Chamber, Members sit in political groups, not in national delegations. Parliament currently has seven political groups, plus some 'non-attached' Members. These political groups include members from over one hundred national political parties.
Breakdown of seats by political groups and member states
Presidents of the European Parliament since 1952
Chairmen of the political groups (Conference of Presidents)
The EP's standing committees
Organisation of the European Parliament
The European Parliament is the only Community institution that meets and debates in public. Its decisions, positions and proceedings are published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.
Members sit in political groups in the Chamber, not in national delegations. Parliament currently has seven political groups, as well as 'non-attached' Members. Members also sit on parliamentary committees and delegations, as either full or substitute members.
Members spend one week each month at a plenary session in Strasbourg, when Parliament meets in full session. Additional two-day sittings are held in Brussels. Parliament's secretariat is located in Luxembourg.
Two weeks in every month are set aside for meetings of Parliament's committees in Brussels. The remaining week is devoted to meetings of the political groups.
With the assistance of its translators and interpreters, Parliament works in the eleven official languages of the Union: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
Presidency, Bureau and Conference of Presidents
The President oversees all the activities of Parliament and its constituent bodies. He or she presides over its plenary sittings and chairs the meetings of the Bureau and Conference of Presidents. He or she represents Parliament in all external relations, particularly international relations.
The Bureau is the regulatory body responsible for Parliament's budget and for administrative, organisational and staff matters. In addition to the President and fourteen Vice-Presidents, it includes, in a consultative capacity, the five Quaestors, who are responsible for administrative matters relating directly to MEPs. The members of the Bureau are elected for two and a half years.
The Conference of Presidents is made up of the President of Parliament and the political group chairmen. As the body responsible for Parliament's political organisation, it establishes the size and terms of reference of parliamentary committees and delegations, decides on the distribution of seats in the Chamber and draws up the timetable and agenda for plenary sessions. It considers the recommendations of the Conference of Committee Chairmen regarding the work of the committees and plenary session agendas.
The political groups
The vast majority of MEPs belong to one or other of the political groups. Members who do not belong to any of the groups are known as 'non-attached Members'. A political group must include MEPs from more than one member state and have a minimum number of members. There are currently seven political groups in the European Parliament. The groups draw on more than a hundred national parties. Several of the political groups have links to parties at European level, recognised by the Treaty as 'a factor for integration within the European Union which contributes to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens'. Each political group has a chairman, a bureau and a secretariat.
Before votes in plenary sessions, the groups consider reports from Parliament's committees in the light of their political views and often table amendments to them. They also play an important part in deciding on the agendas for plenary sessions and choosing the topical issues to be placed on these agendas.
Parliament's standing committees, of which there are seventeen, do the preparatory work for Parliament's plenary sessions. Each committee appoints a chairman, three vice-chairmen and has a secretariat.
The committees draw up and adopt reports on legislative proposals and own-initiative reports. They also prepare opinions for other standing committees.
In addition to these standing committees, Parliament can set up temporary committees and committees of inquiry.
The joint parliamentary committees maintain relations with the applicant country parliaments, the interparliamentary delegations with parliaments in other non-EU states.
Under the authority of a Secretary-General some 3,500 officials, recruited by competition from all the countries of the Union, work in the service of the European Parliament. The political groups have their own staff and Members their own assistants.
The European Parliament has to work within the constraints of multilingualism - which accounts for about one third of its staff - and the fact of having three places of work - Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg. Running the European Parliament costs € 2.5 per year per EU inhabitant (the equivalent of 1.08% of the Union's total budget).
Powers of the European Parliament
Like all parliaments, the European Parliament has three fundamental powers: legislative power, budgetary power and supervisory power. Its political role within the European Union is growing.
The EP adopts European legislation with the Council
The normal legislative procedure is codecision. This procedure puts the European Parliament and the Council on an equal footing, and together they adopt legislation proposed by the Commission. Parliament has to give its final agreement.
Codecision is an essential power of the European Parliament, which enhances its ability to influence European legislation. Codecision applies, among other things, to the free movement of workers, the establishment of the internal market, research and technological development, the environment, consumer protection, education, culture and health. It has enabled the European Parliament to be instrumental in the adoption of legislation whereby, to quote only a few examples,
Although codecision is the standard procedure, there are important areas in which Parliament simply gives an opinion; these include taxation and the annual farm price review.
As well as reinforcing Parliament's codecision powers, the Amsterdam Treaty established its position as a driving force behind EU policy making. At the instigation of one or other of its committees Parliament frequently adopts reports designed to steer EU policy in a particular direction.
Parliament's legislative work is organised for the main part as follows:
The European Parliament and the Council are the two arms of the budgetary authority. In other words, they share the power of the purse, just as they share legislative power. The preliminary work on Parliament's decision-making in this area is done by its Committee on Budgets in cooperation with the other standing committees.
By exercising its budgetary power the European Parliament expresses its political priorities. It establishes the budget for the following year each December. The budget does not come into force until it has been signed by the President of Parliament. Since 1986 annual expenditure has been part of a multiannual framework - the 'financial perspectives' - adopted jointly by Parliament and the Council.
Parliament has the last word on most expenditure in the annual budget, such as spending on the less prosperous regions, spending on training to help reduce unemployment etc. In the case of agricultural expenditure Parliament can propose amendments, but the Council has the final say. Parliament and the Council consider the Commission's budgetary proposals in two readings (between May and December) in the course of which they agree on how much money is to be spent, and on what.
Parliament can also reject the budget if it believes that it does not meet the needs of the Union. The budgetary procedure then starts all over again. Parliament has rejected the budget on two occasions in the past, but has not used this weapon since it began defining a multiannual financial framework jointly with the Council.
Parliament exercises democratic oversight of all Community activities. This power, which was originally applied to the activities of the Commission only, has been extended to the Council of Ministers and the bodies responsible for the foreign and security policy. To facilitate this supervision the European Parliament can set up temporary committees of inquiry. It has done so on several occasions, as in the case of mad cow disease, when Parliament's inquiry led to the establishment of a European Veterinary Agency in Ireland. Parliament also secured the creation of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
The Commission and Council
The European Parliament plays a central role in appointing the Commission. It ratifies the appointment of the Commission President, holds confirmation hearings of the nominee Commissioners and then decides whether or not to appoint the Commission, as a whole, by a vote of confidence.
Parliament also has the right to censure the Commission: a 'motion of censure' against the Commission adopted by an absolute majority of MEPs and two-thirds of the votes cast would force the Commission to resign. To date Parliament has never adopted a motion of censure, but its power to do so acts as a powerful deterrent.
Parliament routinely exercises its supervisory powers by examining a large number of reports that the Commission submits to it on the implementation of policies, legislation and the budget.
A parliamentary committee, a political group or a given number of Members can put oral questions to the Council and Commission. These questions, on topics of political importance, usually lead to a debate. Topical issues relating to events that have aroused a high level of public interest in Europe are also the subject of regular debates. In both cases the debate is usually followed by the adoption of a resolution. During plenary sessions 'Question Time' with the Council and Commission provides a forum for a series of questions and answers on topical issues. Individual Members can address written questions to the Council and Commission; these receive written replies. More than 5,000 questions are asked every year by Members and political groups.
The Council Presidency presents its programme and half-yearly report to Parliament It also informs Parliament of the preparation for and outcome of European Councils and the progress of important legislative activities. The Council is represented, sometimes at ministerial level, at meetings of Parliament's committees.
The European Council
The European Council, which meets twice a year, is made up of the heads of state and government of the Member States and the Commission President. Parliament's President makes a number of recommendations to the European Council as it sets general political guidelines for the Union. After each summit meeting the President of the European Council reports to Parliament.
Parliament's growing political role
Co-decision on legislation has enhanced the European Parliament's political clout. This influence is ever more evident in key areas of European Union activity, from the Common Foreign and Security Policy and co-operation in police and judicial matters, to EMU, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Convention on the Future of Europe.
The Common Foreign and Security Policy
The aim of European political cooperation, which started in the early 1970s, was to go beyond the economic and social framework set up by the Community treaties to achieve a genuinely common strategy in the field of foreign policy. The Treaty on European Union incorporated the security dimension into foreign policy: one of its sections is entitled 'Provisions on a common foreign and security policy (CFSP)'. The setting up of the European Rapid Reaction Force has, for the first time in its history, given the European Union a foreign and security policy identity of its own.
The Council consults Parliament on major foreign policy decisions. Parliament puts questions to the Council, and can make recommendations. Through its Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy in particular, Parliament is in regular contact with the Union's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
International events are the subject of regular debates concluding with the adoption of resolutions urging a particular approach to the European Union's foreign policy.
International agreements and treaties
Any accession of a State to the European Union and most international agreements require the assent - i.e. the approval - of the European Parliament. In the case of an international agreement or an accession treaty the European Parliament must be kept fully informed of the mandate and the state of negotiations. It can ask for its recommendations to be taken into account at any time.
Globalisation and the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are a constant concern of the European Parliament. Its recommendations to the Commission, the European Union's main trade negotiator, carry a great deal of weight, since Parliament has to give its assent to the outcome of negotiations in the WTO.
At the instigation of its Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy, Parliament is calling for these trade negotiations to take more account of the problems of poverty, development and democracy: the developing countries must derive more benefit from the advantages of globalisation and, if necessary, be granted tariff exemptions. A fair world economic order must go hand in hand with social development and respect for fundamental rights. Parliament has called on the WTO to comply with the rules of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Parliament has other concerns in this area, including trade in agricultural products, food safety and quality, biodiversity and cultural pluralism.
The European Parliament is adamant that, for democracy and transparency in the WTO to be reinforced, the latter must establish a parliamentary assembly.
Defending human rights in the world
The European Parliament, which attaches great importance to the protection of human rights both inside and outside the Union, uses its power of assent as one way of promoting respect for fundamental rights. It has, for example, rejected a series of financial protocols with certain non-member countries on human rights grounds, forcing those countries to release political prisoners or to subscribe to international undertakings on human rights protection.
Thanks to the European Parliament the Cotonou Convention, which links the European Union to 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) now includes a 'democracy clause', i.e. the option to suspend aid to states guilty of serious human rights violations.
In 1988 Parliament established the Sakharov Prize, which is awarded annually to one or more individuals or a group who have distinguished themselves in the struggle for human rights.
An international forum
The influence wielded by Parliament through its work on foreign policy and external relations has given it the status of an international forum. In recent years the European Parliament has been addressed by the UN Secretary-General, the President of the United States, the heads of state of Mexico, Chile and Colombia, and the King of Jordan, to name only a few.
The area of freedom, security and justice
One of the European Union's objectives is to provide its citizens with 'a high level of safety within an area of freedom, security and justice'. The European Parliament, attaches great importance to the fulfilment of this goal.
Cooperation on security, i.e. police and judicial matters - criminal and civil cases, asylum policy, immigration, terrorism and organised crime, the fight against drugs, corruption, racism and xenophobia - now falls within the competence of the Union. Parliament plays a full legislative role in this area.
Human rights in the European Union
Freedom is inextricably bound up with human and fundamental rights. The Treaty of Amsterdam now gives them a central role: 'the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law'. If a Member State violates these principles 'seriously and persistently', certain of its rights may be suspended. Establishing such a violation requires the assent of Parliament.
The Treaty establishing the European Community also empowers the European Union, and hence the European Parliament, to take action against any discrimination based on nationality, sex, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Furthermore, a Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union has been drawn up and adopted by a Convention made up of representatives of the European Parliament, national parliaments, member states and the European Commission. The European Parliament made a major contribution to the drafting of the Charter. The Charter was solemnly proclaimed, as a political declaration, at the Nice European Council in December 2000. It brings together in a single text civil, political, economic and social rights hitherto dispersed over a number of national, European and international acts.
The European Parliament sees the Charter as the first step towards a European Constitution, and is calling for it to be incorporated in the Treaty in order to guarantee its full application. Parliament has undertaken in its rules of procedure to ensure that all legislative proposals respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter.
Economic and monetary union (EMU)
The European Central Bank (ECB), which plays a major role in the context of EMU, reaches its monetary policy decisions in complete independence. It alone is authorised to fix interest rates and deploy the other monetary instruments needed to safeguard the stability of the euro.
The Bank however is required to account to the European Parliament, and to it alone. Parliament's rules of procedure define its role in the appointment of the ECB's President and Vice-President and the other members of the executive board: after committee hearings, the nominees have to be approved by Parliament before they can be appointed by the Council.
The ECB President is required to present an annual report to Parliament in plenarysession. In addition, the ECB President and other members of the executive board appear before Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee at the request of either party.
Convention on the future of Europe
With the aim of democratising the EU reform process, the European Parliament has used all its efforts to secure the creation of a Convention on the future of the European Union. At Parliament's instigation, the Laeken European Council in December 2001 convened a Convention bringing together the main parties involved in the debate on the Union's future. The Convention consists of a president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, 2 vice-presidents, 16 MEPs, 30 members of national parliaments, 15 representatives of the member states' heads of state or government, 2 European Commissioners and, in the role of observers, 39 representatives of the 13 applicant countries.
The work of the Convention, which met for the first time on 28 February 2002, is to last for one year and the results will then be submitted to the European Council.
The European Parliament has called on the Convention to put forward reform proposals that will make the Union 'more democratic, more effective, more transparent, more vigorous and more responsive to social issues', so that the general public 'fully embraces the process of European integration, for which purpose it needs to understand clearly who does what in the European Union, what the latter is required to do and how it should set about it'.
Among the topics to be addressed, Parliament has singled out political, economic and social progress, the security and well-being of Europe's citizens and peoples, the affirmation of the Union's role in the world, the simplification of legislative procedures, the election of the Commission president by the European Parliament, defining the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the simplification of European treaties.
The European Parliament: your voice in Europe
Citizenship of the Union, which exists by virtue of the Treaty, is conferred on everyone who is a national of an EU member state. EU citizenship complements, and does not replace, national citizenship. Election by universal suffrage gives the European Parliament full legitimacy. By voting in its elections the citizens of Europe enhance its status and influence.
European citizenship gives EU citizens the right of free movement and residence in the territory of the Member States, the right to vote and stand for election in European and local elections, the right to diplomatic protection in third countries, as well as:
The right to information
The Treaty also states that any citizen of the Union and anyone residing in one of the Member States has a right of access, under certain conditions, to documents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
These conditions have been spelled out in a European Parliament and Council regulation (1049/2001 of 30 May 2001) regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. A register open to the public in each institution and accessible via Internet will be set up from 3 June 2002 to make it easier to access and search for these documents.
Requests may be submitted in writing or electronically (email@example.com) by any European citizen and any natural or legal person resident or having its seat in a member state, as well as by persons who are not citizens or residents of the Union. Access to documents will be refused only if they are covered by the special protection provided for in the above-mentioned regulation.
Members of the public can also obtain information from the European Parliament's information offices in the member states or ask questions via the Citizens' Mailbox. All documents published by European Union bodies can be accessed at the European documentation centres in large European cities (see http://europa.eu.int/comm/libraries).
The right of petition
Anyone residing in an EU member state has the right to submit a petition to the European Parliament, individually or as part of a group, on matters concerning them directly which fall within the European Union's remit. They should write to:
Any member of the public with a complaint of maladministration by a European institution can bring it before the Ombudsman appointed by Parliament.
ABC of the European Union
ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly: the 'parliament' of the Cotonou Convention, which links 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to the member states of the European Union. It is made up of representatives of the 77 countries and 77 Members of the European Parliament, and promotes north-south interdependence, human rights and democracy. Its meetings are held in ACP and European Union countries on an alternating basis.
Acquis communautaire: the whole range of laws, practices, principles and obligations adopted or developed by the European Union. Countries seeking membership are legally obliged to accept the acquis communautaire and to incorporate it in their legislation before they can join the European Union.
Area of freedom, security and justice: this 'area', which under the Amsterdam Treaty must be progressively established, will embrace measures on asylum, immigration, police and judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, prevention of racism and xenophobia, and the fight against organised crime.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: the Charter, which was drawn up and adopted by a Convention made up of representatives of the European Parliament, the national parliaments, the member states and the European Commission, was proclaimed at the Nice European Council in December 2000. The European Parliament sees the Charter as the first step towards a European Constitution.
Citizenship of the Union: all nationals of EU member states have the status of citizens of the Union. This guarantees, among other things: freedom of movement and residence within the territory of the Union; the right to vote and stand in local and EP elections in the country of residence; and the right to petition the European Parliament and to bring complaints before the European Ombudsman. Citizenship of the Union does not replace national citizenship, but complements it.
Codecision: a legislative procedure introduced by the Maastricht Treaty which places the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on an equal footing in the adoption of Community legislation.
Committee of the Regions: a consultative committee set up by the Maastricht Treaty and made up of 222 representatives of the local and regional authorities of the Union, appointed by the member states. It meets in Brussels.
Common foreign and security policy (CFSP): initiated in the early 70s, at first in the form of 'European political cooperation', the Union's foreign policy has developed steadily; the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties codified it and incorporated the common security dimension. The High Representative for the CFSP assists the Council Presidency in this area.
Convention: a Convention on the future of Europe was set up by the Laeken European Council in December 2001 to examine essential issues connected with the future development of the Union. It is made up of 16 MEPs, 30 members of national parliaments, 15 representatives of member state heads of state and government, and 2 European Commissioners. Under the chairmanship of Valérie Giscard d'Estaing it is headed by a bureau consisting, apart from the chairman, of two vice-chairmen and 9 other members of the Convention. 39 representatives of the 13 applicant countries will participate in a consultative capacity.
Council of Europe: Not to be confused with the European Council, this is an intergovernmental organisation with 43 member countries which drafts pan-European Conventions for adoption in areas such as human rights, culture and education. It has been based in Strasbourg since 1949. The Council of Europe is not an EU body.
Council of the European Union: made up of ministers (or their representatives) from each of the member states. It meets periodically in Brussels or Luxembourg to adopt Community legislation, often jointly with the European Parliament under the codecision procedure. The Council presidency rotates among the member states on a 6-monthly basis. The make-up of the Council varies with the subject (finance, agriculture, foreign affairs, etc.). Its decisions are prepared by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper). [See also European Council]
Court of Justice of the European Communities: consisting of 15 judges appointed by the member states and 9 advocates-general, the Court ensures compliance with the law in the application and interpretation of the treaties. Its seat is in Luxembourg. Not to be confused with the International Court of Justice, which is an organ of the United Nations and has its seat in The Hague, or the European Court of Human Rights, which has its seat in Strasbourg and is an organ of the Council of Europe.
Decision: in European law a decision is binding in its entirety on those to whom it is addressed (cf. Regulation).
Directive: EU directives are binding on the member states as regards the results to be achieved, but leave the choice of method up to them (cf. Regulation).
Economic and Social Committee: a consultative committee consisting of 222 representatives of various economic and social groups in the Union. It meets in Brussels.
Enlargement: the term used to describe the four waves of new accessions whereby the six founding members of the European Community - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - were joined by a further nine: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1973; Greece in 1981; Spain and Portugal in 1986; Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. At present 13 central and eastern European and Mediterranean countries are applying for membership, 12 of which have begun membership negotiations with the European Union. In order to join the EU they have to satisfy political and economic criteria and incorporate the acquis communautaire into their legislation.
Erasmus: European Union programme, now merged with the Socrates programme, under which students from one member state can spend part of their education in another country of the Union.
Eurogroup: informal grouping of the twelve members of the Economic and Finance Council representing the euro zone.
European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom): established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
European Central Bank: based in Frankfurt, the European Central Bank is responsible for the monetary policy of the euro zone, i.e. the member states that have opted for the single currency.
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC): the first European community, set up by the Treaty of Paris of 18 April 1951. It was abolished in 2002.
European Commission: the institution that initiates Community legislation, runs European common policies, implements the budget and ensures compliance with the treaties. It is made up of 20 independent members (2 each from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom and one from each of the other member states). It is appointed for 5 years subject to the approval of the European Parliament, to which it is accountable. The current President of the Commission is Romano Prodi.
European Community (EC): under the 1992 Maastricht Treaty the EC replaced the European Economic Community (EEC) established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. It governs matters relating to the free movement of people, goods, services and capital, transport, competition, tax, economic and monetary policy, trade policy, employment and social policy, culture, health, consumers, industry, regional development policy (economic and social cohesion), research, the environment and development. It forms part of the wider entity of the European Union.
European Council: since 1975 the European Council has brought together, at least twice a year, the heads of state or government of the member states of the Union - assisted by the foreign ministers - and the President of the European Commission. It lays down the broad policy guidelines of the Union and discusses topical international issues of major importance. The meetings are referred to by the media as 'summits'. [See also Council of the European Union]
European Court of Auditors: the European Court of Auditors has 15 members. It monitors the management of Community finances and can inform Parliament and the Council of any irregularities it may uncover. It is based in Luxembourg.
European Parliament resolution: a text adopted by the European Parliament embodying its opinion either on a legislative text - a 'legislative resolution' - or on any subject chosen on Parliament's own initiative - a 'non-legislative resolution' - with the intention of influencing a given European Union policy.
European Union (EU): the European Union is based on the Communities - the European Community, and Euratom - plus the common foreign and security policy and common action in the fields of police and judicial cooperation.
High Representative for the CFSP: this office, which was created by the Amsterdam Treaty, is filled by the Secretary-General of the Council with the aim of assisting the EU presidency in matters of foreign policy and common security.
Intergovernmental Conference (IGC): forum in which the member state governments negotiate changes to the treaties.
Investiture of the Commission: the member states nominate the person they envisage appointing as President of the Commission 'by common accord'. The nomination is then approved by the European Parliament. The member states, in consultation with the President-designate, choose nominees for the other members of the Commission. After individual hearings by Parliament's standing committees, the Commission thus formed is subject, as a whole, to a vote of approval by the European Parliament, and is then formally appointed.
Presidency of the European Union: the presidency of the Union rotates among the member states every six months.
Qualified majority: the method of voting used by the Council in the legislative procedure (except where unanimity is required). It involves giving the vote of each member state a weighting which broadly reflects the size of its population.
Regulation: in European legislation regulations are of general applicability; they are directly applicable in all member states.
Structural funds: the term denoting the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund and the Cohesion Fund. Their purpose is to narrow the development gap between regions and between EU member states.
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