No. 41




European Parliament – a Modest but Persistent Visionary

10 June 2020


RiTo No. 41, 2020

  • Marion Reigo

    Adviser to the European Union Affairs Committee, Chancellery of the Riigikogu

The European Parliament, a globally unique directly elected international representative body, is the carrier of European values and identity. It has kept pace with important changes in Europe, often being the initiator and trendsetter in them.

This article discusses the story of formation and the ambitions of the European Parliament through three prisms: the historical key events, the role of political factions, and important discussion topics.

When analysing the course of history, we can see that today’s European Parliament is something altogether different when compared with the parliament that started its work in the 1950s. Gradually claiming more and more competencies, the forum consisting of national representatives has become a political objectives setter and a co-legislature of the European Union. The Parliament is an equal decision-maker with the Council in most of the Union’s areas of activity. In addition to having legislative powers and a budgetary competence, the European Parliament has also become an increasingly stronger supervisory body, exercising control over the EU institutions and in particular the activities of the European Commission, which has the executive power.

The future trends of the European Parliament are often set through the levers of influence of its political groups. Even though individual members of the parliament have their influence and rights, most of the members have joined a political group that matches their views. This is one of the most direct ways for a member to influence the European Parliament’s positions and thereby the shaping of the European Union policy.

The European Parliament as the voice of citizens and a political forum has always been, if anything, a visionary in bringing up topics and defining priorities. In comparison with other EU institutions, it is more ambitious and bolder in many of its demands. Looking back in time, we can see that the European Parliament has for a long time now been concerned for example about economy and internal market, human rights, European unity and integration. The debates in the near future, which to a certain extent will also be building on earlier topics, will to a large extent be inspired by the overall objectives that were set after the European elections. They include becoming the first climate-neutral continent in the world, shaping a Europe fit for the digital age, improvement of the economic model emphasising the social aspect, strengthening of Europe’s global position, promotion of European way of life, and boosting of European democracy.

Over time, the Parliament has become an equal partner to the Council and the Commission, known for its future-oriented attitude emphasising European unity. At times overshadowed by other institutions but attracting attention with its ambitious ideas, the Parliament continues to protect the interests of its voters. It does so in the hope that Europeans will think of the European Parliament increasingly more between elections as well, and that we will perceive it as our parliament, the parliament of all Europeans.