Chapter 1.2 - The European Parliament - The European...

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The European Parliament Articles 13 and 14 TEU, Articles 223 and 224 TFEU (ex Articles189–201 EC) Introduction The story of the European Parliament is one of gradual transformation from a relatively powerless Assembly under the 1952 Treaty to the considerably strengthened institution it is today. The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU). Together with the Council of the European Union ( The Council ) and the European Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world. The Parliament is currently composed of 754 Members of the European Parliament, who represent the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009). It has been directly elected every five years by universal suffrage since 1979. However, turnout at European Parliament Elections has fallen consecutively at each election since that date, and has been under 50% since 1999. Turnout in 2009 stood at 43% of all European voters, ranging from 90% in Luxembourg and Belgium (where compulsory voting is used) to 20% in Slovakia. Turnout was under 50% in 18 out of 27 member states. History The Parliament, like the other institutions, was not designed in its current form when it first met on 10 September 1952. One of the oldest common institutions, it began as the "Common Assembly" of the European Coal and Steele Community (ECSC). It was a consultative assembly of 78 parliamentarians drawn from the national parliaments of member states having no legislative powers. The change since its foundation was highlighted by Professor David Farrell of the University of Manchester: ‘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.’ In 1979, its members were directly elected for the first time. After that first election, the parliament held its first session on 11 July 1979, electing Simone Veil MEP as its President. Veil was also the first female President of the Parliament since it was formed as the Common Assembly. As an elected body, the Parliament began to draft proposals addressing the functioning of the EU. For example in 1984, inspired by its previous work on the Political Community, it drafted the "draft Treaty establishing the European Union" Although it was not adopted, many ideas were later implemented by other treaties.
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Furthermore the Parliament began holding votes on proposed Commission Presidents from the 1980s, before it was given any formal right to veto.
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