ABOUT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
European Parliament (EP) is the only directly-elected institution of the European Union (EU) and one of the biggest democratic assemblies in the world. Its 766 members represent 500 million EU citizens. It is elected every five years by voters from 28 EU member states.
ABC of the EU institutions and the role of the EP
European Parliament. EP represents the interests of EU citizens and can be called the voice of the EU nation. Similar to the Saeima in Latvia, it is elected during democratic and direct elections, in a vote for different political parties and their candidates.
European Commission. EC is the promoter of the common EU interests. It includes 27 commissioners and 1 president of Commission, who are nominated by the member states, but appointed by the EP. Each commissioner has his or her own team. Similar formation to EC in Latvia is the Cabinet of Ministers, ministers and line ministries and institutions subordinated to them.
Council of the EU. Government ministers, advisors, ambassadors and other official representatives of all 28 the member states are engaged in the Council of the EU. There is no equivalent institution on the national level.
European Council. European Council is the representative of the interests of member states, gathering Prime Ministers or Presidents of 28 countries that meet during the summits of the Council.
European Parliament at work
After being elected, the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) organise their work along political lines. In order to better defend their political positions, they form political groups or factions, similar to the national level. The groups are organised by political affiliation, not by nationality, for instance, all the liberal MEPs of the member states are gathering in one political group. There are currently seven political groups in the EP.
The major part of the EP work is carried out in Brussels, and it is organised in specialised standing committees that draw up reports to be voted on during the plenary sittings. There are currently 20 parliamentary committees, and after election each MEP join certain committee according to his or her competence.
EP plenary that takes place in the French city of Strasbourg is the high point of the European Parliament’s political activity, and it represents the legislative work done in EP committees and in the political groups. The plenary sitting is also the forum in which the MEPs, who are the representatives of the citizens of the EU, take part in EU decision-making and express their standpoint to the European Commission and Council.
EP powers and procedures
For a long time the European Parliament had only one purpose – it was a forum for debate and a consultative body. However, since the MEPs have been elected by direct universal elections and thanks to the active work of the MEPs, it has been able to increase the powers, especially due to the Lisbon Treaty that came into effect in 2009 and according to which EP acquired the status of equal partner in co-decision with the EU Council, covering three quarters of the EU legislation.
Hence, the powers and procedures of the European Parliament have increased through the years, including:
Democratic oversight of the European Commission and the Council of the EU, asking questions, providing inquiries,
Ratification of the EU constitutional treaties, for instance, ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, including consent on accession of new member states, and ratification of international EU agreements, that have been negotiated by the European Commission,
Adopting legislation in many political areas together with the Council of the EU,
Input to the European Council summit, as the President of the EP sets out Parliament’s political point of view,
Approval or dismissal of the EU commissioners, commissioners-designate have been required to appear before an EP hearing,
Approval or dismissal of the EU budget, as the President signs it, rendering it operational,
Maintaining close links with the member states’ national parliaments, keeping them regularly informed of EP’s activities and inviting members of the national parliaments to the EP.
ABOUT THE ELECTIONS TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
The elections to the European Parliament in Latvia will take place on 24 May 2014.
Some interesting facts about the EP elections
Elections of this year will be the third elections to the European Parliament with Latvian participation. It offers voters the chance to influence the future political course of the European Union, when they elect 751 Members of the European Parliament, who for the next five years will be representing the interests of the electorate.
First direct EP elections took place in 1979. Before that, between 1958 and 1974, the Members of the European Parliament were appointed by the national parliaments, and all MEPs held two mandates.
The number of MEPs due to be elected in the EP elections of 2014 is 751, and Latvian voters will choose their 8 members.
The seats are allocated among the states by the EU treaties, and are based on the so-called “degressive proportionality”. It means that countries with larger populations have more seats than countries with less inhabitants, however the latter have more seats than strict proportionality would imply. More information on EP elections on the web site of EP.
Voting procedure in Latvia
Polling stations in Latvia will be open from 7am to 8pm. Early voting will take place between 21 and 23 May for several hours every day:
Wednesday, 21 May – 5pm to 8pm,
Thursday, 22 May – 9am to noon,
Friday, 23 May – 10am to 4pm.
In order to participate in the elections, a voter will have to present a valid passport or personal ID card. Lists of candidates, information on candidates and pre-election programmes will be available at polling stations from 19 May. On 19 May polling stations will also start to accept submissions regarding voting at the place of residence for those voters, who will be unable to vote at the polling station due to the state of health.
Options to vote abroad
Latvian citizens, who reside abroad, also have the right to participate in the EP elections. These voters can vote by post.
They had to submit an application for postal voting by 12 April to one of the 42 diplomatic or consular missions of the Republic of Latvia that accept applications for postal voting, by 24 April to the polling station for postal voting in Riga, Elizabetes street 57, Consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or by 27 April online.
Frequently Asked Questions about EP, MEPs and elections
How do MEPs work, how much are they paid, and what are their expenses? Answers to these and other frequently-asked questions about Parliament's working methods and running costs are set out in this FAQ section.
This PDF file contain a wide range of information about the day-to-day organisational running of the Parliament. The selection of questions and answers is regularly updated to include items of current and perennial interest to the media.
For more updated version of FAQ click here.
Last changes 05.05.2014