The European Parliament is the parliamentary body of the European Union. Other organisations of European countries, like the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Western European Union have parliamentary assemblies as well, but the European Parliament is unique in the sense that it is directly elected by the people and has legislative power. The members of the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Western European Union are appointed by national parliaments.
Although the two institutions of the EU's executive, the Commission and the Council, both have their seats in Brussels, a protocol attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam requires the European Parliament to have monthly sessions in Strasbourg, France. For practical reasons however, all preparatory legislative work and committee meetings of the Parliament take place in Brussels. The Parliament only spends 4 days per month in Strasbourg in order to take the final, plenary votes. Additional plenary meetings are held in Brussels. On several occasions Parliament has expressed a wish to choose itself the location of its seat, but even in the new Treaty of Nice European governments keep reserving this right for themselves.
Party Groups in the European Parliament
- PSE (Party of European Socialists)
- PPE-DE (European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats)
- ELDR (European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party)
- Verts-ALE (European Federation of Green Parties / European Free Alliance)
- EDD (Europe of Democracies and Diversities)
- GUE-NGL (European United Left / Nordic Green Left)
- UEN (Union for a Europe of Nations)
Note the European Parliament party groups are distinct from the corresponding political parties, although they are intimately linked. Usually, the European parties also have member parties from European countries which are not members of the European Union.
Some of the members of the European Parliament prefered not to belong to any political group. These independent members are refered to as NI (Non-Inscrits).