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European elections

Since 1979, the European Parliament has been the only supranational institution whose members are democratically elected by direct universal suffrage via proportional representation elections that take place every five years. For the period 2009-2014, the parliament is made up of 736 parliamentarians divided over the 27 Member States. From 2014, the Lisbon Treaty has made provisions for the number of MEPs to increase to 751. Each Member State decides how its own elections are to be run but must apply identical democratic rules, namely gender equality and secret ballot. In all Member States, citizens receive the right to vote at the age of 18, with the exception of Austria where one can vote from the age of 16.

Each Member State has a fixed number of seats, Germany has the highest number of seats – 99 – and Malta is at the other end of the scale with just five seats.

European regulation

This is a standard-setting instrument for general application that the European Parliament along with the Council and the Commission have at their disposal. It is obligatory in its entirety and is directly applicable in every Member State of the European Union. It is published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

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