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Legislative assembly of the European Union (EU). Inaugurated in 1958 as the Common Assembly, the European Parliament originally consisted of representatives selected by the national parliaments of member countries. Beginning in 1979, members of the Parliament, who now number more than 700, were elected by direct universal suffrage to terms of five years. The number of members per country varies depending on population. The Parliament's leadership is shared by a president and 14 vice presidents, elected for 30-month terms. The EU Council of Ministers, which represents the member states, consults the Parliament, which is empowered to discuss whatever matters it wishes. The Parliament's powers were expanded with passage of the Maastricht Treaty (1993). Although it has veto power in most areas relating to economic integration and budgetary policy, it remains subordinate to the Council of Ministers and does not function with the authority of a national legislature such as the U.S. Congress or the British House of Commons.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on European Parliament, visit Britannica.com.
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