‘The assembly of the European Union representing its 370 million citizens. Direct elections have been held every five years since June 1979. By the late 1990’s, the parliament was composed of 626 Members (MEPs) who convened in Brussels and Strasbourg and had legislative, budgetary, and supervisory powers. The European parliament had its roots in the parliamentary assembly created as part of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) which met for the first time in September 1952. It was established formally by the treaty of Rome when 142 representatives from the six member states were delegated by their national parliaments. With enlargement in 1973, pressure built up within the European Community to democratise the European parliament through direct elections. In July 1979 after direct universal suffrage throughout the nine member states, 410 MEP’s met in Strasbourg. With each enlargement, the number of MEP’s has increased.
Originally, the treaty of Rome provided for the European Commission to propose and the Council of Ministers to decide after consulting the European parliament. The parliament thus had little more than a watching brief. With the development of the European community/Union, however, its competencies have been widened and strengthened significantly through legislative evolution (see also, Amsterdam, the treaty of; Maastricht Treaty; Single European Act). In essence, the parliament has three fundamental powers: the power to legislate; power over the European Union (EU) budget; and power of supervision over the executive. It has control over legislation through co-decision with the Council of Ministers in certain areas and power of sanction over the annual budget and EU expenditure. The appointment of a European Commission president and commissioners must be approved by the parliament and the resignation of the entire Santer commission in March 1999 symbolised the parliament’s power in this area’.