1. ITV Report

What do you know about the European Parliament?

The European Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, France Photo: ITV News Anglia / David Hughes

It’s six months to the next European Elections in May 2014 but do we really know what goes on in the European Union and what MEPs get up to?

The UK is split up into huge super constituencies which elect several Euro MPs using a proportional representation system of voting. That ensures all the main parties are represented and some of the smaller parties.

In the East of England, there are seven MEPs representing the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. In the west of the Anglia region, people in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland have five MEPs representing the East Midlands while the Milton Keynes area is in a huge South East constituency with ten MEPs.

Last time we voted for Members of the European Parliament in 2009 nearly two-thirds of people didn’t bother to vote.

The European Parliament meets in the French city of Strasbourg for one week a month Credit: ITV News Anglia / David Hughes
  • There are 766 MEPs from 28 countries
  • The UK has 73 MEPs the second highest number after Germany with 99
  • There are 23 official languages of the EU and the European Parliament employs around 700 full-time translators
  • The European Parliament has three homes in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

The European Parliament has three main roles. It can debate and pass new European laws in conjunction with the Council of Ministers, which is made up of the governments of the members states. It also scrutinises the works of other EU institutions particularly the European Commission and it can also set the EU's budget along with ministers.

Why does the European Parliament have three homes?

The European Parliament meets for one week a month in the French city of Strasbourg and the rest of the time the MEPs are in Brussels or their constituencies. Some of the Parliament's staff work in Luxembourg.

The EU Treaty stipulates the Parliament should meet in Strasbourg with committee meetings held in Brussels. MEPs are pushing for the Parliament to decide where they meet so they can end the monthly journey along the autoroute between Belgium and France.

With staff, equipment and paperwork having to make the monthly journey it costs about £8.4 million for each of the 12 plenary sessions a year held in Strasbourg.