The European Parliament is the assembly of the representatives of the 492 million Union citizens. Since 1979 they have been elected by direct universal suffrage and today total 785, distributed between Member States by reference to their population.
The European Parliament’s main functions are as follows:
- legislative power: in most cases Parliament shares the legislative power with the Council, in particular through the codecision procedure;
- budgetary power: Parliament shares budgetary powers with the Council in voting on the annual budget, and overseeing its implementation;
- power of control over the Union’s institutions, in particular the Commission.
The Parliament can give or withhold approval for the designation of Commissioners and has the power to dismiss the Commission as a body by passing a motion of censure. It also exercises a power of control over the Union’s activities through the written and oral questions it can put to the Commission and the Council. It can set up temporary committees and committees of inquiry whose remit is not necessarily confined to the activities of Community institutions but can extend to action taken by the Member States in implementing Community policies.