About the European Parliament
In its earliest form the European Union started life as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) back in 1952. The Coal and Steel Community was founded by six countries – France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy . It involved cooperation on the coal and steel production of these countries, which was important to the arms industry and was a major commodity in trade between them.
The purpose of the cooperation was to pave the way for greater European cohesion and stability by making the countries mutually dependent on each other’s coal and steel production. Given that the atrocities of World War Two were fresh in everyones’ minds the idea was that by making these countries dependent on each other, future hostilities between European countries could not happen again and thus a durable peace in Europe would be ensured.
Over the years, cooperation between these countries grew and seeing the benefits other European countries joined meaning more structures needed to be put in place to manage the relationships and workings of the growing European structure.
While even in the beginning, when the European Coal and Steel Community existed, there was already a consultative assembly of parliamentarians from the national parliaments of the members of the Community, it was only after much growth and changes to this earliest form of the EU that the directly elected European Parliament came into being in 1979.
Nowadays the European Parliament (EP) is one of the three main institutions involved in the creation of European law, along with the European Commission and the European Council of Ministers. It is the only directly elected EU body. Following the 2009 elections, there are 736 MEPs (this rose to 751 under the Lisbon Treaty) who represent the EU’s 501 million citizen across the 27 member states. The UK has 72 MEPs. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) serve five-year terms.