The three powers
The European Parliament fulfils three main roles: legislative power, budgetary power and supervisory power.
As part of the ordinary legislative procedure, the European Parliament shares legislative power with the Council. It gives rulings over the proposals put forward by the European Commission which has the monopoly of legislative initiative. The European Parliament is part of this procedure on an equal footing with the Council and is now the lower chamber of a bi-cameral parliamentary system that rests on the principle of growing equality between the Parliament and the Council. The other procedures (consultation and approbation) are exceptional: these are special legislative procedures.
The European Parliament adopts the budget jointly with the Council; these two institutions comprise the European Union’s “budgetary authority”. The total revenue is limited by agreement between the Member States and the national parliaments; total expenditure is also limited by an inter-institutional agreement. The European Parliament now enjoys equal decision-making power, notably with regard to the adoption of the entire annual budget (before the Lisbon Treaty the Council had the final say with regard to the so-called “obligatory spending” which represents a major part of the European budget and notably agricultural spending). If there is continued disagreement between the Parliament and the Council, the Parliament has the final say.
The European Parliament has supervisory powers with regard to the other community institutions and notably with regard to the European Commission.
Over the years there has been a desire on the part of the European Parliament to assert itself with regard to the other European institutions. A continuous extension of power over the last 30 years has notably been made at the expense of the Council in terms of legislative and budgetary power and of the Commission in terms of its supervisory powers.Historically it has been thanks to budgetary competence that the European Parliament has progressively increased its powers.
Apart from these three main roles the European Parliament ensures the direct link between European citizens and the Community institutions.
Right of Petition
The European Parliament can receive both individual and collective petitions from European citizens, from anyone living there, any business or organisation established within its boundaries. These petitions must refer to issues in areas over which the European Union has competence; they can take the form of requests, observations and even complaints. In 2021, Parliament received 1 392 pétitions
(1007 of which were valid, 368 invalid and 17 withdrawn).
Since 1995, the European Parliament has elected a European ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints on the part of European citizens relative to cases of poor administration by the institutions and community organisations. The European ombudsman can also decide to launch an inquiry. He is elected for a five-year renewable term in office. Emily O’Reilly (Ireland) has been ombudsman since October 2013.
In 2022, the European ombudsman received 2238 complaints, 755 of them were valid and 1483 did not come within her remit. The European ombudsman has undertaken a total of 330 inquiries. The European Commission was the main institution under investigation and most often problems involved transparency and accountability (notably access to information and documents).
→ To find out more about the European Ombudsman,click here
→ The European Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2022, click here