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Guide to the European Parliament



The European Parliament can often seem like a minefield of jargon.

Below are some of the key names and positions you are likely to encounter when following events at the European Parliament.

Bureau of the European Parliament: The organisation that has overall control of the functions of the Parliament. It is made up of the President, the Vice-Presidents and the quaestors for a renewable period of two and a half years. They decide the Parliament's annual internal budget as well as having responsibility for administrative and staffing issues.

Committee chairs: Chairing one of the Parliament's influential committees is one of the most sought after positions.

Committees scrutinise laws proposed by the European Commission, as well as putting forward "own-initiative" reports. There are 20 Committees, covering areas like the budget, environment and foreign affairs. For each report that the Committee produces, a rapporteur is appointed, in other words the person in charge of writing the report.

Temporary committees may also be set up for maximum of one year on a particular issue, such as on the alleged use of extraordinary rendition. EP Committees all have acronyms - for example the Foreign Affairs Committee is known as AFET and the Fisheries Committee is known as PECH.

Conference of Presidents: The governing body of the European Parliament, responsible for the organisation of its internal administration such as drawing up the agenda for plenary sessions. It is made up of the President of the Parliament, the chairs of the political groups and a representative of the non-attached members. They meet roughly twice a month.

Delegations and Assemblies: Groups of MEPs from all parties that provide links with non-EU Parliaments. Included amongst these are ad hoc joint parliamentary committees held with candidate countries, such as Croatia or Macedonia.

There are also more formal Joint Parliamentary Assemblies with the developing world, such as the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly that provides joint discussions between the EU and countries from Africa, the Caribbean and South Pacific.

Europe Minister: The government Minister within the UK Foreign Office, responsible for relations between the UK and the European Union.

Group Leaders: These politicians lead the political groups in the European Parliament. The political groups cross national boundaries, representing MEPs from at least seven member states. The names can change fairly regularly, but there is usually a group for each of the centre right, centre left, liberals, far left, greens, and Eurosceptics.

MEP: An elected member of the European Parliament. A MEP must be a citizen of an EU member state, but may choose to represent any country in the EU that he or she wants. For example, the former enfant terrible of the student riots in Paris of 1968, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, has represented Germany in the Parliament.

Non-Attached Members: Known as "non inscrits" in Parliament jargon, these MEPs are not members of any of the political groups, either by choice, or because they've been kicked out of an existing group.

President: The person who chairs plenary sessions and represents the European Parliament to the outside world. A President serves half a Parliamentary term and is elected by MEPs, sometimes after numerous rounds of voting to eliminate other candidates to eventually secure a majority.

Quaestor: Taking their name from elected officials in the Roman Republic, the European Parliament's six quaestors are responsible for administrative services for members, for example making sure that proper technical equipment is available to MEPs. They meet once a month, and each quaestor - elected by MEPs - serves a two and a half year term.

Rapporteur: One of those particularly EU pieces of jargon, a rapporteur is the MEP appointed by a committee of the European Parliament to draw up a report. The report may be a response to a Commission proposal for a new law, or an own-initiative proposal.

It is the rapporteur who has the task of guiding the report through plenary, and is usually one of the first people to speak in the relevant debate.

Secretariat: This is in effect the civil service of the European Parliament, with around 5,000 officials providing permanent administrative and policy support staff to ensure the smooth running of the Parliament. Around a third of the Secretariat work in the language section as interpreters or translators. The Secretariat is split between Brussels and Luxembourg.

Vice President: There are 14 Vice Presidents, serving the same length of term and elected at the same time as the President of the Parliament. Positions are divided up amongst the political groupings. Vice Presidents chair plenary sessions in the absence of the President, and take on various roles delegated to them by the President.




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