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The European Parliament

The European Parliament represents, in the words of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, 'the peoples of the States brought together in the European Community'. Some 375 million European citizens in 15 countries are now involved in the process of European integration through their 626 representatives in the European Parliament.

The European Parliament, Strasbourg The first direct elections to the European Parliament were held in June 1979 when, 34 years after the end of Second World War, for the first time in history, the peoples of the nations of Europe, once torn apart by war, went to the polls to elect the members of a single parliament. Europeans could have devised no more powerful symbol of reconciliation.

The European Parliament, which derives its legitimacy from direct universal suffrage and is elected every five years, has steadily acquired greater influence and power through a series of treaties. These treaties, particularly the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, have transformed the European Parliament from a purely consultative assembly into a legislative parliament, exercising powers similar to those of the national parliaments. Today the European Parliament, as an equal partner with the Council of Ministers, passes the majority of European laws - laws that affect the lives of Europe's citizens.

by Pat Cox

More information on The European Parliament

photo © Council of Europe

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