European Council: seems to me to be similar to a board of directors of a corporation.
European Commission: similar to CEO or President (Executive branch, civil service)
Council of the European Union: similar to the upper house of the legislature
European Parliament: similar to the lower house of the legislature

Read: Guide to the European Parliament: Introduction (2009)
Even though this piece is several years old, it contains valuable information for us

Scan what is available on the European Parliament's main website

President of the European Parliament: Martin Schulz
Term: January 2012 - July 2014
Elected by: Members of the European Parliament
Read this two links:

Read: this interesting article about Martin Schulz

Video: The EU institutions explained by their Presidents (9:13)
How the EU works: a video guide (BBC News) [Matthew Price 29 July 2013]

European Parliament: 360 degree virtual tour
Check out the seating arrangement in the following article:

Read: Guide to the European Parliament: Political Groupings (Updated to January 2012)

Familiarize yourself with what is available on both of the following links:


European Parliament: Political Groups

The Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups – they are not organised by nationality, but by political affiliation.

In European politics, the centre-right is usually occupied by Christian democrats or by conservatives.

In western Europe, social-democratic parties have been the dominant centre-left force since the dawn of modern European cooperation.

In European politics, liberalism tends to be associated with classical liberalism, which advocates limited government intervention in society in general

There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament.

Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) [EPP]

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament [S&D]

Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe [ALDE]

Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance [Greens/EFA]

European Conservatives and Reformists Group [ECR]

Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left [GUE/NGL]

Europe of freedom and democracy Group [EFD]

Each political group takes care of its own internal organization by appointing a chair (or two co-chairs in the case of some groups), a bureau and a secretariat.

The places assigned to Members in the Chamber are decided by political affiliation, from left to right, by agreement with the group chairmen.

25 Members are needed to form a political group, and at least one-quarter of the Member States must be represented within the group.

Members may not belong to more than one political group.

Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.

Before every vote in plenary the political groups scrutinize the reports drawn up by the parliamentary committees and table amendments to them.

The position adopted by the political group is arrived at by discussion within the group. No Member can be forced to vote in a particular way.

European Parliament: Powers and Procedures

The European Parliament has been steadily gaining power over recent decades and now acts as a co-legislator for nearly all EU law.

Together with the Council, the Parliament adopts or amends proposals from the Commission. Parliament also supervises the work of the Commission and adopts the European Union's budget.

Beyond these official powers the Parliament also works closely with national parliaments of EU countries. Regular joint parliamentary assemblies allow for a better inclusion of national perspectives into the Parliament's deliberations.

Members of the European Parliament [MEP's]

The European Parliament is made up of 766 Members elected in the 28 Member States of the enlarged European Union. Since 1979 MEPs have been elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year period.

Each Member State decides on the form its election will take, but follows identical democratic ground rules: equality of the sexes and a secret ballot.

In all Member States, the voting age is 18, with the exception of Austria, where it is 16.

European elections are already governed by a number of common principles: direct universal suffrage, proportional representation and a five-year renewable term.

The seats are, as a general rule, shared out proportionately to the population of each Member State.

Each Member State has a set number of seats, the maximum being 99 and the minimum 6.

Equality of men and women: the proportion of women in the European Parliament has risen steadily. At present slightly over one third of MEPs are women.

MEPs divide their time between Brussels, Strasbourg and their constituencies.

In Brussels they attend meetings of the parliamentary committees and political groups, and additional plenary sittings. In Strasbourg they attend 12 plenary sittings. In parallel with these activities they must also, of course, devote time to their constituencies.

The Members of the European Parliament are grouped by political affinity and not by nationality.

EU President term of office

In 1987 the Single European Act came into force and, under the new cooperation procedure, the
Parliament needed to obtain large majorities to make the most impact.

So the EPP and PES came to an agreement to co-operate in the Parliament. This agreement became known as the "grand coalition" and, aside from a break in the fifth Parliament, it has dominated the Parliament for much of its life, regardless of necessity.

The grand coalition is visible in the agreement between the two Groups to divide the five-year term of the President of the European Parliament equally between them, with a socialist president for half the term and a People's president for the other half, regardless of the actual election


European Parliament: How Plenary Sessions Work

The high point of the European Parliament's political activity, plenary sittings represent the culmination of the legislative work done in committee and in the political groups. The plenary sitting is also the forum in which the representatives of the citizens of the European Union - the Members of the European Parliament or MEPs - take part in Community decision-making and express their standpoint vis-à-a vis the Commission and Council.

For many years the Parliament was simply a forum for debate, a purely consultative body.
But since its election by direct universal suffrage and thanks to the active work of its members, it has been able to secure greater powers and acquire the status of equal partner in co-decision with the Council in areas covering three quarters of Community legislation.

Today, the European Parliament has 766 elected members from 28 Member States of the European Union and conducts its plenary debates in 24 languages. In plenary, MEPs, officials, interpreters and translators follow very precise procedures in order to ensure the best possible conduct of the sitting.

Who's who in plenary

Plenary sittings are chaired by the President of the European Parliament. The President of the European Parliament is assisted in this task by the 14 vice-presidents, who can take over the chair. The President opens the sitting, sometimes with a tribute or a speech on a current topic. Parliament is in fact constantly concerned to respond to the latest developments in any major issue and has no hesitation in changing its agenda in order to call on the Union to act. The President's influence can be decisive in this respect.

During the sitting, the President calls upon speakers and ensures that the proceedings are properly conducted.

Most of the 766 MEPs belong to a political group, of which there are currently 7, representing all ideological tendencies in the EP.

However, no Member can be obliged by his group to vote in a particular way.