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Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament

The European Parliament is the co-legislator of the European Union (EU). It has legislative and budgetary powers, which it shares with the Council, as well as a democratic supervisory role. The functioning and organisation of the European Parliament are laid down in its Rules of Procedure.

SUMMARY

The Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament (EP) establish the internal organisation and functioning of the institution. Article 232 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU gives Parliament the power to adopt its own Rules of Procedure.

COMPOSITION OF PARLIAMENT

Members

The Members of the EP exercise their mandate independently, subject to the rules concerning incompatibility laid down in the Act of 20th September 1976 (amended by Decision 2002/772/EC). They enjoy privileges and immunities in accordance with the Protocol 7 on the privileges and immunities of the EU.

The President, the 14 Vice-Presidents and the 5 Quaestors are elected by their peers by secret ballot. Their nominations must have the support of a political group or at least 40 Members. Their term of office is two and a half years.

The President:

  • directs all the activities of and represents Parliament;
  • opens, suspends and closes sittings;
  • directs parliamentary debates;
  • rules on the admissibility of amendments in plenary session, on questions to the Council and Commission, and on the conformity of Parliament's reports with its Rules of Procedure;
  • refers to committees any communications that concern them.

The Vice-Presidents may replace the President as provided for in the Rules of Procedure, for example if the President wishes to take part in a debate. The Quaestors are also responsible for administrative and financial matters.

Governing bodies

Parliament has several governing bodies, the most important of which are:

  • the Bureau: consisting of the President, the 14 Vice-Presidents and the Quaestors (who serve in an advisory capacity), it takes financial, organisational and administrative decisions on matters concerning Parliament;
  • the Conference of Presidents: it consists of the President, the chairmen of the political groups and a non-attached Member who participates in the Conference without a right to vote. The Conference takes decisions on the organisation of Parliament's work and matters relating to legislative planning, draws up the agendas for Parliament's part-sessions, determines the composition and areas of competence of committees, and authorises the drawing up of own-initiative reports. It is also responsible for relations with the other institutions and bodies of the European Union as well as with certain non-member countries and non-Union institutions and organisations.

There are also two other Conferences, the Conference of Committee Chairmen and the Conference of Delegation Chairmen. Both may make recommendations to the Conference of Presidents.

Groups and political parties

The political groups are formed on the basis of political affinities and consist of a minimum of 25 Members elected in at least one quarter of the Member States. The political groups and Members who have not joined a group are provided with a secretariat, administrative facilities and the appropriations entered for the purpose in Parliament's budget.

The Statute of the European political parties was approved in 2004. Parliament's Rules of Procedure merely set out the powers and responsibilities of its governing bodies in relation to them. The President represents Parliament in its relations with these parties and the Bureau decides on requests for financing.

ORGANISATION

Parliamentary committees

The organisation and operation of Parliament is the responsibility of the parliamentary committees. There are three types of parliamentary committee:

  • standing committees: These committees are at the heart of Parliament's legislative work (Annex VII to the Rules of Procedure). The standing committees examine the matters referred to them according to their powers and responsibilities. Should it fall within more than one area, the matter may be referred to a maximum of three committees;
  • special committees: Their powers, composition and term of office are defined when they are set up. Their mandate cannot exceed twelve months;
  • committees of inquiry: These are ad hoc committees set up by Parliament at the request of one quarter of its Members to investigate contraventions or maladministration in the implementation of European law.

The standing and special committees are set up on a proposal of the Conference of Presidents. Their permanent and substitute members are elected after nominations have been submitted by the political groups and the non-attached Members. The composition of these committees should correspond as far as possible to that of Parliament as a whole.

Interparliamentary delegations

There are also standing interparliamentary delegations, set up on a proposal from the Conference of Presidents, which decides on their nature and the number of their members. Parliament can also set up joint parliamentary committees with the parliaments of States associated with the Union or States with which accession negotiations have been initiated..

Sessions of Parliament

Each year of the term corresponds to one session divided into 12 part-sessions (monthly plenaries). The monthly part-session is subdivided into daily sittings.

Parliament's seat is in Strasbourg, where it holds 12 monthly part-sessions. Additional part-sessions and committee meetings are held in Brussels.

Members have the right to speak in the official language of their choice. Leave to speak and speaking time are carefully regulated.

A draft agenda is drawn up by the Conference of Presidents. The final agenda is then adopted at the start of each session. Moreover, the points listed in the agenda may be the subject of a debate, proposals for amendments or the subject of a single vote without debate.

LEGISLATIVE, BUDGETARY AND OTHER PROCEDURES

Parliament cooperates with the Commission and the Council in drawing up the European Union's legislative programme (see Annex XIV). Once the Commission has submitted a proposal, the legislative procedure in Parliament starts with an in-depth examination of respect for fundamental rights, the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, and an estimate of the financial resources needed.

In the case of legislative reports, the President of Parliament sends the Commission proposals, consultations, requests by the Council or from the Commission for an opinion, and the Council common positions to the parliamentary committee, which first examines the legal basis. The committee then appoints a rapporteur whose report will comprise draft amendments, if any, a draft legislative resolution and, if appropriate, an explanatory statement. The committee chairman may also propose that the proposal be approved without amendment following a first discussion, unless at least one tenth of the committee members object.

A rapporteur is also appointed in the case of non-legislative reports, such as own-initiative reports or opinions. He must present a report comprising a motion for a resolution, an explanatory statement including a financial statement, and the texts of any motions for resolutions to be tabled in plenary.

Own-initiative reports, sent to the Commission so that it can present a proposal for legislation, must first be authorised by the Conference of Presidents. The Conference has two months to take a decision. If authorisation is withheld, the reason must be stated.

Legislative procedures

All legislative proposals from the Commission are sent to the competent parliamentary committee which draws up a report. On the basis of this report, the Parliament may adopt the text, propose amendments or reject the proposal.

In the ordinary legislative procedure, the Parliament is co-legislator with the Council of the EU. The two institutions adopt legislative acts either at first reading or at second reading. If, at the end of the second reading, the two institutions have still not reached agreement, a conciliation committee is convened.

Furthermore, there are special legislative procedures within which the Council of the EU is the sole legislator and the Parliament is only associated with the procedure. The role of the Parliament is therefore limited to consultation on, and approval of, the legislative proposal.

Quorum and voting

A quorum exists when one third of the Members are present in the Chamber. Voting is usually by show of hands, but voting by roll call, electronic voting and voting by secret ballot are also possible in some circumstances.

Other procedures

Particularly sensitive areas, such as the budget and foreign relations, are subject to a separate procedure.

Parliament plays a key role with respect to the EU Budget; it is involved in adopting the budget, controls its implementation and grants discharge to the Commission in respect of such implementation.

The EP also plays an important role in concluding international agreements. In particular, it can formulate recommendations and deliver its opinion or approval on the signing of all international agreements.

RELATIONS WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS AND WITH CITIZENS

Relations with the other European institutions and bodies

Parliament elects the President of the Commission and the College of Commissioners. Once they have been appointed, the Commissioners are asked to present their policy approaches in plenary and to the committees responsible. Parliament may also submit and vote on a motion of censure leading to the resignation of the Commission. A framework agreement on relations with the Commission can be found in Annex XIII.

Parliament also gives its opinion on the appointment of Members of the Court of Auditors and Members of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank.

Parliament may also consult the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions on matters of a general nature or on specific points. It also has the right to submit requests to European agencies and to make referrals to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

In order to improve or clarify procedures, Parliament may enter into interinstitutional agreements with the other institutions. Parliament has other means of interacting with the institutions. It may for example put questions to the Council or the Commission, which will answer orally during the debate or in writing if so requested by Parliament. It may also submit written questions to the European Central Bank.

Relations with national parliaments

Parliament briefs the national parliaments regularly on its activities. A delegation from the EP meets the national delegations in the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for European Affairs.

Relations with citizens

All citizens or residents of the European Union have the right of access to parliamentary documents, within the limits defined. Committee and plenary debates are public and reports on plenary debates are published in the Official Journal, thereby guaranteeing the transparency of and the public's right to information on Parliament's proceedings.

All citizens or residents of the European Union also have the right to address petitions to Parliament on matters coming within the European Union's fields of activity and directly affecting them. Petitions are examined by the committee responsible, which may decide to draw up a report or otherwise express an opinion.

European citizens may also address complaints concerning the activities of the European institutions and bodies to the European Ombudsman.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 10.12.2010
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