The European Parliament was founded in 1958 as the European Parliamentary Assembly, and its members were chosen by the parliaments of the nations belonging to the three treaty organizations that were later merged to form what is now the EU. Since 1979, the members sent by each nation have been directly elected by its citizens for five-year terms. Once elected, members are grouped according to political party or faction rather than nationality. Its expansion over the years has followed that of the EU; there are currently 705 members.
The parliament was for many years a consultative body, but its powers have been expanded. Those powers remain largely negative ones, exercised mainly through its ability to refuse to grant approval or otherwise act as required; it may not initiate legislation. The final vote on legislation proposed by the European Commission, as well as amendments proposed by the parliament, is shared with or belongs to the Council of the European Union. The aspect of EU government over which the parliament has the most direct influence is the EU budget, which it may amend or reject and on which it generally has the final vote. It also must approve the slate of nominees for the European Commission.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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