The European Parliament is one of the largest parliaments in the world led by a President, who is elected by his or her fellow MEPs for a two and a half year term of office.  The current President is Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek.

Irish MEPs are based in Ireland and we travel weekly to Brussels or Strasbourg.  We spend two weeks each month in parliamentary committees and one week examining draft laws with our Groups in Brussels.  One week each month we meet at plenary sessions in Strasbourg where we debate, amend and vote on EU laws.

MEPs sit in one of the Parliament’s multi-national political groups.  The Groups decide on the Parliament’s leadership and also take a view on all issues to be decided upon by Parliament.

I and my Fianna Fáil colleagues are members of the ALDE Group (Alliance of Liberals & Democrats for Europe).

As the only directly-elected EU body, the EP’s main job is to help provide democratic accountability in EU decision-making.  The EP’s role is complementary to that of national parliaments who must ensure democratic accountability of the European decisions of their own national governments.

The EP shares European legislative powers with the Council, and examines, modifies and occasionally rejects European proposals from the Commission.  It also examines implementation of European law.

The Parliament also shares budgetary powers with the Council, can adopt or reject the annual EU budget, and can modify the distribution of funding between different EU programmes.

The EP plays an important role in many EU political appointments, including the appointment of the President of the European Commission and of the Commission as a whole.  It can dismiss the entire Commission if dissatisfied with its performance.

The EU faces many internal and external challenges, including climate change, security of energy supply, world poverty and the promotion of economic development and human rights.  The European Parliament, given the range and diversity of political viewpoints represented within it, is a unique forum for discussing such issues at European level.

Further information on the European Parliament and its workings can be found at its website where the history of the European Union is also available