European Parliament

What does it do?


The European Parliament represents people living in the 28 member countries of the European Union (EU). It has powers in a range of areas that affect member countries:

  • animal rights
  • consumer rights
  • the environment
  • international trade
  • regional economic development
  • workers' rights

It has the power to approve, amend or reject new European laws. It also approves the EU budget and new members of the European Commission.

How is it made up?


The European Parliament is currently made up of 766 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are elected by 28 EU member countries. After the 2014 elections, the figure will be 751. 

The UK is represented by 73 MEPs. In the UK, there are 12 European electoral regions and each region is represented by between three and ten MEPs. Go to the website of the UK Office of the European Parliament to find out which region you live in and who represents your area.

MEPs spend some of their time in their regional constituencies in the UK and some of their time in political meetings in Brussels. For one week in every month they go to Strasbourg to debate and vote on new European laws with MEPs from other EU member countries.

How is it elected?


In a UK European Parliamentary election, you have one vote to elect all of your MEPs. Each party puts forward a list of candidates known as a regional list and you vote for one of these lists or for an individual candidate standing as an independent. The number of MEPs that are elected from each party to represent a region depends on the overall share of votes that each party receives.

In Northern Ireland, there is a different voting system, the single transferable vote. You vote by ranking the candidates in order of preference.

More information on voting in European Parliamentary elections can be found on the voting systems pages.

When is it elected?


Elections for the European Parliament take place every five years. The next election is scheduled for 22 May 2014.

Where can I find out more?


The UK Office of the European Parliament website

Prior to the last European Parliamentary elections, a BBC reporter spent a week shadowing MEPs of all British parties to find out more about what they do and what they're for.  You can read about it on the BBC news website, here.

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