Friday, March 25, 2005

The Institutions of the EU 1- The Parliament

The European Union Parliament

Article 19 of the Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe place the parliament at the beginning of the list of the European Union’s institutions. Paragraph 1 of the Article gives the Parliament three important functions:

1- “The European Parliament Shall, jointly with the Council of Ministers, enact legislation, and exercise the budgetary function, as well as functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Constitution. It shall elect the President of the European Commission.”

This means that the Parliament exercises a role of supervision over the Commission by appointing its President. This makes the Commission responsible towards the Parliament. In 1999, members of the Commission along with the President of that body, Jacque Santer had to resign under pressure from the Parliament, a process known as “motion of censure.”

The Commission submits reports to the Parliament, including implementation of the budget, application of Community law and other host of reports that deal with other subjects. Members of the Parliament have the right to submit questions to the Commission; some of the questions may be asked orally or in a written form, the Commission has responsibility to respond to these questions.

Various committees in the Parliament may request the Commission to be present at hearing, thus maintain dialogue between the two institutions.

The Constitution gives the right to the Parliament to monitor the work of the Council and members of the Parliament frequently ask questions to the Council. The President of the Council attends sessions held in the Parliament and takes part in the debate dealing with important issues.

In the past, a close relationship had been established between the Parliament and the Council in the area of foreign policy, security matters, and judicial subject as well as issues dealing with immigration, combating drug abuse, fraud and international crime. The President of the Council keeps the Parliament informed on these and other subjects on a regular basis.

The Parliament has the constitutional authority to legislate, together with the Council. The Commission proposes and the Parliament formulates and adopts legislation. Each institution must agree on the same text, this places both, the Parliament and the Council, on the same footings and leads to the adoption of a joint, Parliament and Council legislation. In cases where disagreements arise, a committee of conciliation representing the Parliament, the Council and the Commission is established to find a compromise solution.

This process has been successful in passing laws in many areas such as the free movement of workers, creation of the internal and single market, research and development in technology, the environment, consumer protection, education, and health.

In addition, the Parliament gives its approval on matters of importance to the Union such as the accession of new states, association agreement with countries outside the Union, the conclusion of international agreement between the Union and other countries, the right of residence in the European Union, citizenship and the matters related to the European Central Bank.

2- “The European Parliament shall be elected by direct universal suffrage of European citizens in free and secret ballot for a term of five years. Its members shall not exceed seven hundred and thirty-six in number. Representation of European citizens shall be digressively proportional, and with a minimum threshold of four members per Member State.

Sufficiently in advance of the European Parliamentary elections in 2009, and, as necessary thereafter for further elections, the European Council shall adopt by unanimity, on the basis of a proposal from the European Parliament and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the European Parliament, respecting the principles set out above.”

The European Parliament meets in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Voting on directives issued by the Commission (plenary sessions) is held in Strasbourg, the seat of the Parliament. Committees of the Parliament are held in Brussels. The Secretariat is in Luxembourg.

Members of Parliament are elected every five years, the last election was held in June 2004. The next election will be in 2009.

3- “The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.”

Gabriel Sawma

Copyright 2005, Gabriel Sawma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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