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Opening of February plenary session with Vice-president McGuinness. Photo by Flickr user European Parliament, Feb. 10, 2020. European Union 2020 – Source: EP. Used under CC BY 4.0,

FALQs: European Parliament Elections

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The following is a guest post by Eva Dauke, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Jenny Gesley at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Eva has previously written a guest post on the Anniversary of the German Basic Law – German Constitutions in the Course of Time. This guest post is part of our Frequently Asked Legal Questions series.

The next European elections will be held across the European Union (EU) from Thursday, June 6, to Sunday, June 9, 2024, when citizens of all 27 EU member states will elect candidates to represent them as members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

1. What is the European Parliament?

The European Parliament is one of the three main institutions of the EU, along with the European Commission and the Council of the European Union (not to be confused with the European Council or the Council of Europe). The Parliament is a co-legislator with the Council of the EU and part of the legislative branch.

The European Parliament is made up of a maximum of 750 MEPs, who are elected through direct, proportional, universal elections from each EU member state, plus the president. The number of MEPs elected is based on the principle of degressive proportionality. (Treaty on European Union (TEU), art. 14.) This means that an “MEP from a larger country represents more [citizens] than an MEP from a smaller country.” On February 1, 2020, after the United Kingdom (UK) officially left the EU (commonly known as Brexit), the number of MEPs fell from 751 to 705. The UK’s seats were either re-allocated to other member states or held in reserve for when additional countries join the EU in the future.

In the European Parliament, the MEPs work in various parliamentary committees that draft, amend, and adopt legislative proposals.

The European Parliament’s seat is in Strasbourg, France, while its administrative offices are located in the city of Luxembourg. Parliamentary debates are also held at the Hemicycle in Brussels.

2. What is the role of the European Parliament in relation to the Council of the European Union and the European Commission?

The Parliament is the EU’s only directly elected institution that represents the citizens of the member states. Together with the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, the European Parliament is part of the legislative procedure. (See Question 3 below.)

The European Parliament exercises its powers under article 14 of the TEU and articles 223 to 234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It represents the interests of EU citizens and is responsible for legislative and budgetary matters and exercises supervisory and consultative functions. (TEU, art. 14, para. 1.)

The European Parliament, together with the Council of the EU, is responsible for negotiating and adopting legislation. The Council of the EU consists of government ministers from each EU country. (Id. art. 16, para. 2.)

The European Commission is the “EU’s politically independent executive arm.” It consists of different commissioners, one from each member state. (Id. art. 17, para. 5.) It oversees the application of EU law and is responsible for proposing new legislation. (Id. art. 17, paras. 1, 2.)

3. What powers does the European Parliament have?

The European Parliament has both legislative and political power, as it engages in discourse of political, economic, and social topics and decides on new legislation for the EU, such as directives and regulations.

The exclusive right to propose new legislation is held by the European Commission. (Id. art. 17, para. 2.) However, the Commission can also prepare proposals at the request of other EU institutions, the European Parliament, member states, or a citizens’ initiative. (Id. arts. 11, 24, 76, 257.) The European Parliament can only draw up a report on a proposal by a majority of its MEPs; an individual MEP cannot propose legislation. (Id. art. 225.) The final proposal is then presented to the European Parliament by the European Commission. In order for a proposal to become law, an identical text must be approved by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. This process involves multiple readings, possible amendments, and approvals of the proposal.

With its work, the European Parliament aims to uphold the values of the EU, namely respect for human rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law.

Furthermore, the Parliament approves the EU’s budget and determines how EU funds shall be spent. It elects the President of the European Commission and its officers, as well as the President of the European Parliament. (Id., art. 14, paras. 1, 4.)


2024 European elections campaign banner on the Agora Simone Veil of the European Parliament in Brussels.
Use your vote – European elections on 6-9 June 2024. Photo by Flickr user European Parliament. Jan. 29, 2024.CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2024 – Source: EP. Used under CC-BY-4.0,


 4. What are the European Elections and how do they work?

The European elections represent one of the biggest democratic votes in the world. Every five years, citizens of the EU elect over 700 members of the European Parliament to represent nearly 450 million European citizens. The EU Parliament is the only directly elected institution in the EU.

In this year’s election, a total of 720 MEPs will be elected, an increase of 15 compared to the 2019 elections. The number of MEPs to be elected in each country varies according to the size of the state and based on the rule of digressive proportionality. (Id. art. 14.) For example, for the 2024 elections, Germany will elect a total of 96 MEPs, which represents the maximum number of members permitted, followed by France with 81 MEPs. Malta, for example, is the smallest country and is entitled to elect only six MEPs, which is the minimum number of MEPs.

5. What are the procedures for electing the European Parliament?

The procedures for electing the European Parliament are governed by EU legislation and specific national rules. EU legislation establishes common rules for all member states, such as proportional representation, mentioned above, whereas certain national rules differ from one member state to another. For example, the rules on minimum voting age or age to stand as a candidate are governed by the national legislation of the member states and vary from one member state to another. In most EU member states, the voting age is 18. However, in Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Malta the voting age is 16, and in Greece it is 17.

The elected MEPs belong to national political parties, some created specifically for the European elections, and are subject to national rules. However, once elected, most MEPs become part of transnational political groups, which share the same ideals or political goals. There are seven political groups in the current European Parliament. Ahead of the 2024 election, the political groups of the current European Parliament have announced who their lead candidate for the position of President of the European Commission (currently Ursula von der Leyen) is. This in an effort to make the election of the President of the European Commission more transparent, democratic, and more anchored with the citizens of the EU.

 6. When was the first European Election held?

 In 1952, the Treaty of Paris established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which later evolved into the European Union. The forerunner to today’s European Parliament was the European Parliamentary Assembly. The Treaty of Paris provided the possibility of direct election to the Parliamentary Assembly, but this option was not exercised. The members of Parliament were chosen and sent by the parliaments of the member states at this time. More than 20 years later, in 1979, the first direct election for the European Parliament was held. It was the first directly elected international assembly in history.

7. What are the most recent reforms to the European Parliament?

Recent reforms to the European Parliament have mainly focused on the electoral process and enhancing democratic participation. On April 10, 2024, the MEPs approved the latest reform to modernize the Parliament after the 2024 elections. One of the reform’s objectives is to enhance the speed and efficiency of the legislative process by implementing a new referral procedure. It will allow a more efficient attribution to the Commission’s proposals which will lead to an earlier start of legislative work.

For the upcoming elections, two parliamentary committees addressed the protection of the 2024 elections from information manipulation and foreign interference. They have proposed a number of strategies to combat these threats, including recommending “the banning of Tiktok at all levels of national government and in the EU institutions.”

8. Where can I find additional resources?

The Law Library of Congress has published several resources on EU law online, including:

If you have a question regarding EU law, you can also submit it using the Ask a Librarian form on our website.

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

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