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
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
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
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
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
When is it elected?
Elections for the European Parliament take place every five
years. The next election is scheduled for 22
Where can I find out more?
The UK Office of the European
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.