The 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 2004, the European Parliament notably refused the investiture of Italian Rocco Buttiglione because of his comments on homosexuality and the position of women in society. Latvian Ingrida Udre was also refused by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and by the Internal Market Committee who deemed that her response to accusations with regard to the illegal funding of her party were inadequate (Union of Farmers and Greens (ZZS). She was replaced by Andris Piebalgs.

    Any new commissioner is auditioned by the European Parliament. Antonio Tajani, an Italian commissioner replaced Franco Frattini in transport in May 2008. He was auditioned in the same way as Androulla Vassiliou, a Greek who became commissioner for Health after the appointment of his predecessor Markos Kyprianou to the Cypriot government in February 2008. Catherine Margaret Ashton of Upholland, British commissioner, who replaced Peter Mandelson after he was appointed to the British government, was auditioned on 20th October 2008 by the Parliament.

  • Control of the Council of Ministers and the European Commission

    MEPs can ask "Written" or "Oral" Questions to the Council of Ministers 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 will have to present a report to Parliament after each of the European Council’s meetings.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

    The most recent example of the European Court appealing to the Court of Justice of the European Communities was for an annulment. The European Parliament asked the Court to annul a Council decision taken on 19th December 2006, which provided a community guarantee to the European Investment Bank if it made losses as a result of loans and loans guarantees granted to projects outside the Community; it also asked, in the event of the annulment, to maintain the decision until a new decision about this matter could be taken.

    This matter concerned a Council decision on development projects. The Parliament believed that the text infringed the Treaties because it did not find support in the correct articles - thereby leaving the way open for certain countries to undertake policies that were planned differently in the Treaties.

    The Parliament won its case and the Council's decision was indeed annulled and the effects of this decision were maintained until a new decision could be taken.

  • The Temporary Committee of Inquiry

    In the event of a crisis, infringement or poor application of community law the European Parliament can appoint Committees of Inquiry.

    In 1996, a Temporary Committee of Inquiry was established into "the mad cow crisis"; in 2006 the European Parliament established a Temporary Committee of Inquiry on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners.