The European Parliament (abbreviated as Europarl or the EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union. The European Parliament has been steadily gaining power over recent decades and now acts as a co-legislator for nearly all EU law (excluding nuclear issues [under EURATOM] and issues sensitive for national security of the Member States). Together with the Council, the Parliament amends and adopts legislative or non-legislative proposals from the Commission. Parliament also supervises the work of the Commission and adopts the European Union's budget. The Parliament is composed of 754 MEPs (members of the European Parliament), who serve the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009).
The President of the European Parliament (Parliament's speaker) is currently Martin Schulz from the Socialist and Democrats Party (S&D), elected in January 2012.
In 1979, its members were directly elected for the first time. This sets it apart from similar institutions such as those of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or Pan-African Parliament which are appointed.
'For much of its life, the European Parliament could have been justly labeled a 'multi-lingual talking shop'. But this is no longer the case: the EP is now one of the most powerful legislatures in the world both in terms of its legislative and executive oversight powers.' Professor David Farrell, University of Manchester.
The European Parliament shares legislative power equally with the Council of the European Union. This means it is empowered to vote on European laws (directives, regulations etc,). It can accept, amend or reject the content of European legislation, together with the Council of the European Union in a complicated procedure called co-decision or community method.
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union together constitute the Union’s budgetary authority, which decides each year on its expenditure and revenue. The procedure of examining, then adopting, the budget takes place between May and December.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Parliament became a true co-legislator for the EU's entire annual budget, deciding on it in close collaboration with the Council.The European Parliament and the Council must adhere to the annual spending limits laid down in the multiannual financial perspective.
The European Parliament exercises democratic control over the European Commission. The Commission, the guardian of the treaties and the Union's executive arm, also works in close collaboration with Parliament.
The Commission regularly submits reports to Parliament, such as the Annual Commission Report on the Activities of the European Union and the Annual Report on the Implementation of the Budget. Through its scrutiny of these reports Parliament is able to exercise oversight.
The Parliament also has the right to dismiss the proposed college of Commissioners, when a new Commission is formed.
"Pan przewodniczący!" - European Parliament President
Jerzy Buzek arriving to open the plenary sitting in Strasbourg.