Advanced Search
The European Parliament
European Parliament

The European Parliament (EP) can be regarded as the lower house of the European Union’s legislative branch. The upper house is the Council of the European Union.


The countries that make up the EU (its ‘member states’) remain independent sovereign nations but they pool their sovereignty in order to gain a strength and world influence they could not have on their own.

The European Parliament is a powerful institution which can amend and reject legislation, although in order to initiate legislation it needs the EU’s executive branch (the European Commission) to draft a bill.

Direct elections to the European Parliament were first introduced in 1979. The European Parliament consists on 736 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) who are elected in the individual EU member states. MEPs are organised into different parliamentary groups such as the European People’s Party (EEP) or the Socialists and Democrats (S&D). These are in effect broad alliances of national parties.

The voting system used to elect MEPs differs in each member state, and in the UK closed List-PR in regional constituencies is used. This means that the votes cast by the electorate are pretty accurately translated into seats. Minor parties can expect representation if they have sufficient votes. However, because the party lists are closed voters can only vote for the party and have no opportunity to vote for individual candidates.

Further reading...

Want to find our more about the different voting systems and the implications they have for voters, parties, Parliament and for government? Have a look at our simple guide to voting systems...
Systems made simple our A-Z of voting systems
Recent News
18th December 2014
The traditional political parties are in big trouble. Back in the 1950s, one person in every ten was a member of a political party. Now, there are more people who identify their religion as ‘Jedi’ than there are members of the Conservative party, and almost the same number of Labour members.   The era of […]
16th December 2014
Today the Government presented a shopping list of solutions to the so-called West Lothian or English Question. The fact it is a shopping list demonstrates that even within the coalition they cannot agree on which solution is best.   But that’s not surprising – the chances of cross-party agreement on such a partisan issue are never going […]
12th December 2014
We were really pleased to join forces with Unlock Democracy yesterday and hand in our petition to the Prime Minister calling for a Constitutional Convention. It was signed by over 15,000 people, as well as a wide range of academics and civil society organisations.   The petition, which comes in advance of the Government’s expected […]