Power of Control

The European Parliament’s power of control is exercised with regard to the other European institutions, notably with regard to the European Commission.


Control of the European Commission

The European Parliament’s power of political control over the European Commission has grown constantly.
Indeed the Lisbon Treaty states that now it “elects” the president of the European Commission on the basis of a proposal put forward by the European Council that has to take account of the result of the European elections. This opens the way to the politicization of the European elections. It then auditions each of the potential commissioners and can refuse the investiture of any of them. They then swear in the entire college of the European Commission ie the president and the commissioners. To this we might add censure of the Commission on the part of the Parliament.

In 1999, the Santer Commission resigned entirely due to the threat of a motion of censure by Parliament. Since 2004, at each renewal of the Commission, MEPs have rejected one or more candidates. In 2019, they rejected three candidates: Sylvie Goulard from France, Rovana Plumb from Romania and Lazlo Trocsanyi from Hungary. Each country had to put forward a different candidate.

All new Commissioners are interviewed by the European Parliament.


Control of the Council and the European Commission

MEPs can ask “Written” or “Oral” Questions to the Council or the European Commission to control their activities.
They also look at the reports presented by the European Commission.
At the start of each six-monthly presidency of the Council the president in office of the Council of the European Union comes to present his working programme; at the end of the presidency he has to review the results he has achieved. Finally, the President of the European Council has to present a report to Parliament after each meeting of the European Council.

→ Last report of the President of the European Council (November 2023)

Control in the Economic and Financial Area

The European Parliament exercises a power of control over the economic and financial area.
It gives its approval to the appointment of the president and vice-president and the members of the board of the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB president also has to present the his institution’s annual report in a plenary session at the European Parliament.
Moreover, the European Court of Auditors, which monitors the proper collection and expenditure of EU funds and helps to improve financial management, must present Parliament (and the Council) with an annual report on the previous year’s budget. On this basis, the Parliament can vote on or reject the way in which the Commission has managed the European budget.


Use of the Court of Justice of the European Communities

The European Parliament can turn to the Court of Justice of the European Communities to annul community acts or in appeal against inadequacies on the part of the European Commission or the Council of Ministers, if they do not fulfil their obligations.
An example of the the European Parliament referring to the ECJ was that of an action for annulment. Firstly the European Parliament asked the Court to annul the Council’s regulation dating 24th June 2010 regarding investment projects related to energy infrastructures in the European Union and secondly if it did annul this regulation that it should remain effective until a new regulation had been adopted.
In this case it concerned a Council regulation on investment projects. The Parliament deemed that the text infringed the treaties since it was not founded on a sound legal basis. The Council should have used the ordinary legislative procedure in which the Parliament would have given its opinion.
The Parliament won and the Council regulation was annulled. It remained effective until a new decision was taken.


The Temporary Committee of Inquiry

In the event of a crisis, infringement or misapplication of Community law, the European Parliament may appoint committees of enquiry.

There is currently a committee of enquiry established on 10 March 2022 into the use of the Pegasus (PEGA) surveillance software. During the 2019-2024 term of office, another committee of enquiry was set up, on the protection of animals during transport (ANIT), established on 19 June 2020, the work of which was completed on 20 January 2022.

Parliament may also receive petitions relating to European legislation. This right of petition is not limited to European citizens, but also applies to European residents and companies or organisations in the EU. (see “Right of petition”).

Finally, the Parliament has powers over the European Ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints about maladministration in the Union’s institutions and bodies. It elects the Ombudsman, who must submit an annual report to Parliament on his activities. Parliament may also call on the Ombudsman to resign. (see the section on the European Ombudsman)