MEPs are elected by direct universal suffrage every five years. For the period 2009-2014, the European Parliament has 736 parliamentarians from the 27 Member States. The number of MEPs per Member State depends on the population size. Each country has a fixed number of seats, going from 5 for Malta to 99 for Germany.
The Lisbon Treaty has limited the number of members of Parliament to 751. A minimum threshold of 6 MEPs per Member State and a maximum of 96 (art. 14 TEU) is planned. These changes are due to enter into force during the next European elections scheduled for 2014.
Division by country
Italy, France, United Kingdom
Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Czech Republic
Denmark, Finland, Slovakia
Cyprus, Estonia, Luxemburg
Division by political group
A European political group unites MEPs from different Member States who have the same political ideologies. Members of the same group usually vote the same way in the European Parliament although there are no voting instructions. To form a group, there must be at least 25 MEPs from at least seven EU Member States. There are currently eight groups.
European People’s Party (EPP)
Founded in 1953 as the ‘Christian-Democrat Group’, it is currently the largest political group in the European Parliament with 272 MEPs. It brings together MEPs from European Christian-Democrat, conservative and centre-right parties. Group president is French MEP Joseph Daul.
This group chairs ten parliamentary committees and holds five of the fourteen vice-presidencies of the Parliament due to its large size. The president of the Parliament as well as two of the five quaestors are also from this political group. Within the group, the German delegation is the largest with 42 MEPs, followed by Italy (36) and France (30). At the other end of the scale, Denmark and Estonia only have one representative each in the group.
The 2009 European election brought a relatively successful outcome for the EPP which received 36% of the votes, just two points less than in 2004.
Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D)
Formerly the ‘Party of European Socialists group’ (PSE), this group represents the second largest political force in the European Parliament with 190 MEPs. It brings together MEPs from socialist, social-democrat and labour parties as well as the Italian democrats. Martin Schultz, the German MEP, is group president.
The German delegation is again the largest in number counting 23 MEPs while Spain have 23 and Italy 22. France has 14 MEPs in the S&D group.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
This centrist and federalist group has had Belgian MEP, Guy Verhofstadt, as president since 2009. It has 85 MEPs – including 12 each from the UK and Germany.
Greens/European Free Alliance group (Greens/EFA)
This parliamentary group, created in 1999, is the 4th largest group in Parliament. It has 58 MEPs from Green parties and representatives of stateless nations (‘regionalists’) from 15 Member States. France have 15 MEPs and Germany 14.
The group has had two co-presidents since 2009: French MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and German MEP Rebecca Harms.
European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)
This group is made up of parliamentarians from euroskeptic or non-federalist parties that are considered moderate. It is partly made up of the former European Democrat (ED) section of the EPP. Czech MEP Jan Zahradil is group president. 27 of the group’s MEPs come from the British Conservative Party and 15 from the Polish Law and Justice Party.
European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)
Led by German MEP Lothar Bisky, this group has 34 MEPs spread out over 13 Member States. It brings together socialist, communist, anticapitalist or antiliberal leaning parties and aims to be a forum of cooperation for leftist parties. Since the EU was enlarged to include Austria, Finland and Sweden, the group is made up of two sub-groups – European United Left and Green Left.
Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD)
The EFD group has 28 MEPs, mainly coming from the Italian Northern League Party (9) and the UK Independence Party (9). The group defends what it calls the ‘four fundamental points’: freedom and cooperation among people from different Member States; more democracy and respect of people’s will; respect for Europe’s traditions, history and cultural values; and respect for national differences and interests and freedom of votes. It is co-presided by English MEP Nigel Farage and Italian MEP Francesco Speroni.
The Non-attached (NI)
29 MEPs are not part of any political group in the European Parliament either because there are not enough of them to form one or by personal choice. The majority of NI MEPs come from extreme-right national parties.
MEP and political party statutes
The new statute for MEPs came into force on July 14th 2009. It introduced an identical salary for all MEPs regardless of nationality paid for out of the European Union budget. The same is the case for pensions and health insurance.
Article 10 of the new statute fixes the MEP salary at €7,665 monthly (gross) to which is added the general expenditure allowance of €4,202, daily allowances as well as reimbursement of travel costs.
Political party statutes
The November 4th 2003 regulation governs the status and financing of political parties at European level.
Four conditions are required before a group is recognised as “a political party at European level”:
- must have legal personality in the Member State where its headquarters are;
- must be represented, in at least one quarter of Member States, by Members of the European Parliament or represent (also in one quarter of Member States) at least 3% of the votes cast in each of these Member States during the last European Parliament elections;
- must respect the founding principles of the European Union;
- and must have participated in European Parliament elections or have expressed the desire to do so.
Parties are financed by the general budget of the European Union but they must also be financed up to 15% by other sources. These other sources can be:
- donations from persons, physical or moral (€12,000 maximum per year and per donor, excluding public companies);
- contributions from political parties that are member of the European Parliament political group (up to a maximum of 40% of the annual budget of the group).
The party must publish its income and expenditure every year and make a declaration of all its sources of finance. It cannot accept:
- donations of more than €12,000 per year per person;
- donations from European political groups;
- donations from third country public funds;
- and donations from companies that public powers have influence over.
The 13 European political parties that benefit from EU financing are currently registered as non-governmental organisations. The Commission and the European Parliament have however recently expressed their wish for creation of a common legal and financial status based on community law. They have also recommended the revision of the rules governing financing of political parties. According to the MEPs, the 15% of external financing should be reduced to 10% and the donation limit raised to €25,000. In the near future, these recommendations are expected to lead to legislative proposals to modify the existing legislation.
Last update : August 2011