29 December 1995

How parliament works

THE European parliament, with 626 members, is the only EU institution which meets and debates in public.

In the chamber members sit in political, not national groups (see diagram). There are nine political groups, representing about 100 political parties, plus some non-attached members.

The UK has 87 Euro-MPs, elected for a five-year term. British conservatives sit with the European Peoples Party and Labour with the European Socialists.

Parliament can amend and adopt European laws and make policy proposals. It approves the EU budget, the appointment of commissioners and it examines commission reports.

Parliaments approval is also needed before council can conclude any agreements with third countries.

Members can table written or oral questions to the commission and council and debate policies at plenary sessions in Strasbourg.

Euro MPs are divided into 20 standing committees, including agriculture and rural development. They monitor policy and draw up reports on draft rules.

Parliaments powers were strengthened by the Maastricht Treaty and the inter-governmental conference (IGC) in 1996 will consider further changes.