European Parliament Powers after the Lisbon Treaty
Political System of the European Union

You have probably heard of the democratic deficit debate that has been taking place for several years within the EU. The term was first used by the Young European Federalists in 1977 in a Manifesto, drafted by Richard Corbett. British politician David Marquand then used it in 1979 referring to the then European Economic Community. More than 30 years later the debate is still alive.

We shall now look from within to see how the European Parliament as the direct representative of the people enjoys increased powers after the Treaty of Lisbon came into force. The European Parliament is the only EU institution directly elected by the EU citizens and as such it should make sure that the EU accountability and legitimacy are always in place.

Due to its sui generis nature, the EU does not comprise a model of a national government. Hence, the European Parliament does not have the amount of powers that national parliaments enjoy. With the Lisbon Treaty the EP received several important powers and got much closer to a national parliament. It is now responsible for the EU budget decision-making along with the Council of Ministers, which represents EU governments. From a citizen's point of view, this actually means that the directly elected MEPs along with national ministers now have the power to set the budget. 

EP Budgetary procedure.jpg

The Lisbon Treaty also increased EP powers in the process of decision-making in over 40 areas - the co-decision (or the ordinary legislative procedure) has been extended to include areas such as security and justice, freedom, migrant workers' social security, agriculture, public health, structural funds, measures related to the euro currency.

Political System of the European Union

The Parliament also has the final say in the appointment of the Commission and the Commission cannot take office without the Parliament's approval. Also, currently there are 766 Members of the EP, which is a precedent number. According to the Lisbon Treaty the number will come down to 751 in June 2014 at the next elections. But it seems as though throughout its whole history the Parliament has never been stronger and bigger. Its merely representative function is gradually transforming to include popularity and legitimacy.

But is it enough for the EU citizens? There are still many challenges ahead for the Parliament to face. A debate has been going on whether it is a matter of country-by-country representation or a people representation, if the EU is a Union of States or a Union of People and how smaller member states are overrepresented within the EP. For example, the UK's population is 130 times bigger than that of Luxembourg and the latter has 6 seats. Simple arithmetic shows that the UK should have around 780 seats in order to be proportional to Luxembourg's number, but instead it has 73.

Also, how well are the nations aware of the EU political groups and during elections, do they elect candidates of the EU political party or are they influenced by the MEP candidates' affiliation to the national parties? Many interesting questions to raise and the answers are on their way.

Edited by: Celeste Concari
Photo Credits: 
111Alleskönner  via Wikimedia Commons

References: Hartley, T.C. (2010) The Foundations of European Union Law. New York, Oxford University Press.