Business Briefs

The New European Parliament

One of the oldest institutions of the postwar co-operating Europe is its common assembly, the European Parliament (EP). For long it has been ridiculed for being expensive and powerless, its members grotesquely overpaid and without influence. Its perceived weakness has also brought about much of the well-known criticism of the EU's democratic deficit: the existence of a lack of democracy due to a lack of accountability of EU institutions by the citizens, combined with a lack of access to the EU's activities for the ordinary citizen. However, a closer look reveals that the EP – designed to directly represent the European citizen – has been expanding its powers with every single Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty that came into force on December 1, 2009 beefed up Parliament's powers again, this time quite drastically. Paradoxically, the increase in powers is going hand in hand with a decline in voter turnout for the EP elections, which are held every five years. As such, the problem seems to be less and less one of a democratic deficit, and ever more one of a social deficit. The information is available, checks and balances can be operated, but citizens do not (yet) seem to know how to use them – or simply refrain from doing so. This brief touches upon the evolution of parliamentary powers, the last EP elections, the EP’s changing role in the European project, and the developments set in motion by the “Lisbon process”.

  • Evolution of Power
    • Forty new policy fields are included in the "co-decision procedure"
    • New budgetary powers
    • Choice of President of the European Commission
    • Extension of EU citizen's Charter of Fundamental Rights
    • International agreements
  • Inside the Parliament
  • The Role of National Parliaments
  • The Last EP Elections: A More Conservative Outlook
  • Conclusion


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