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The History of European Parliament

The Parliament is today the only European institution whose members are, every five years,
elected by direct universal suffrage. In the early days of the community however, the
institution took a while to become established. The first incarnation of a European
community, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) founded in 1951 did not have
an assembly. The Benelux governments which is the politic-economical union of Belgium
Netherlands Luxembourg later insisted on an assembly being introduced, yet they had no
intention to make the new entity a democratic institution.

The Schuman declaration of May 9, 1950, the day rightly celebrated as the founding act of
the European Union, does not make any reference to the need of a representative assembly.
Such need was however felt by Jean Monnet, worried about the democratic legitimacy of the
European Coal and Steal Community (ECSC) of which he was set to become the first

European Parliament lie in the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel
Community (ECSC), which became the common assembly of all the three supranational
European communities that existed at the time. After the creation of the European Economic
Community (EEC) and EURATOM, it became known as the European Parliamentary
Assembly in 1958, then the European Parliament in 1962. The change in the Institutions
name reflected the evolving debates on how it would work and what it would be called. Since
1951, its members had been nominated by national parliaments but the Treaty of Rome
(1957) already had provisions for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a
uniform procedure in all Member States (Article 138). Yet it was not until June 1979 that
the first elections by direct universal suffrage took place. The Parliament, with its
headquarters in Strasbourg, initially played a primarily consultative role.

In the 80s, the European Parliament thus started to view itself as the driving force of the
integration process and to fight with ever stronger vigour for increasing its powers. An
important victory was obtained in 1980 when the European Court of Justice annulled a
regulation approved by the Council without consulting the Parliament. Even ifaccording to
the Rome Treatythe Parliaments opinion was not binding, it was nevertheless a mandatory
part of the legislative process. In 1985, to underline and reinforce its centrality in the
government of the EU, the EP, which until then had convened in Strasburg, moved some of
its works in Brussels.4 Finally, in 1986, the approval of the organic treaty reform that goes
under the name of Single European Act owned much of its ambition and federalist afflatus to
the Spinelli Plan that was adopted by the EP in 1984.

Over the last few decades, particularly important victories have been secured by the EP in its
efforts to create a more binding relationship with the European Commission. In 1999, the
Parliament obtained the resignation of the Santer Commission, first by refusing to approve its
budget and then bymenacing a no-confidence vote. Furthermore, albeit the treaties do not
foresee individual confidence votes for each commissioner, the Parliament became able to
exercise considerable influence over their nominations.

The last far-reaching reform of the European treaties so far was signed in Lisbon in 2007. It
extended the codecison procedure to most policy areas, transforming it in the standard
procedure under the new name of Ordinary Legislative Procedure. Furthermore, according to
the Lisbon Treaty, the president of the Commission is now elected by the Parliament albeit
on the base of a proposal made by Council taking into account the results of the
parliamentary elections (art. 17.7, TEU).

The Treaty of Lisbon constitutes another important extension of both the application of
qualified majority voting in the Council (using a new method as of 1 November 2014
Article 16 TEU) and the application of the codecision procedure (now extended to some 45
new legislative domains). Codecision, now known as the ordinary legislative procedure, has
become the most widely used decision-making procedure, covering particularly important
areas such as the common agricultural policy and justice and security policy. Parliaments
role in the preparation of future treaty amendments has become more significant (Article 48
TEU). With the European elections of 22-25 May 2014, it became clear that Parliament had
made full use of the Treaty provision of Article 14 TEU, which states: The European
Parliament shall, mutually with the Council, application of its legislative and budgetary
functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the
Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission. By means of the new Commission
President being elected by Parliament at its sitting of 22 October 2014, the initial idea that
European political parties would present to voters lead candidates for the office of
Commission President had prevailed.
1. Parliament in action. (2017). How the EP works. [online] Available at:
2. (2017). EU Politics / The European Parliament. [online]
Available at:
3. (2017). [online] Available at:
ean_parliament_history.pdf [Accessed 27 Nov. 2017].
4. De Sio L., Emanuele V. and Maggini N. (eds), The European Parliament Elections of
2014, CISE, Rome, 2014