The three powers

The European Parliament fulfils three main roles: legislative power, budgetary power and the power of control.

  • Legislative Power

    As part of the ordinary legislative procedure. The European Parliament shares legislative power with the Council of Ministers. It gives rulings over the proposals put forward by the European Commission which has the monopoly of legislative initiative in the first pillar. 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.

  • Budgetary Power

    The European Parliament adopts the budget jointly with the Council of Ministers; 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 can now enjoy 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.)

  • Power of Control

    The European Parliament has the power of control 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 the power of control.
    Historically it has been thanks to budgetary competence that the European Parliament has progressively increased its powers.

    Apart form 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. 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. En 2007, the European Parliament received 1507 petitions.

    To find out more about petitions, click here

  • European Ombudsman

    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. Nikiforos Diamandouros has been the ombudsman since 2003.
    In 2007, the European ombudsman received 3211 complaints, 518 of them were valid ie 16%. The European ombudsman has undertaken a total of 641 inquiries. The European Commission was the main institution under investigation; the lack of transparency comprised the main type of complaint together with allegations of poor administration.

    To find out more about the European ombudsman, click here