European Parliament


The European Parliament (known as the Parliamentary Assembly until 1962) was created in 1958 following the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Its 142 Members were appointed from among the Members of the national parliaments of the European Economic Community countries. Over the years, the European Parliament has expanded its powers from a simple role of control and support as the High Authority to involvement in budgetary and legislative matters, becoming a co-legislator with the Council.

Constitutive Session, 1958Constitutive session of the new European Parliamentary Assembly in 1958 © European Communities 1958

From the Parliamentary Assembly to the European Parliament

Initially, the powers of the European Parliamentary Assembly remained limited. Its most important power was political control over the executive bodies (High Authority of the ECSC, EEC Commission, Euratom Commission, and then the single Commission from 1967). There was significant progress compared to the European Coal and Steel Community: motions of censure could be passed at any time, and not just when the annual report was submitted. The Assembly also gained some control over Community executive bodies by increasing the number of written and oral questions to the European Commission. These could include debates and be followed by votes on resolutions. This period also saw growing efforts by the European Parliament to exercise some legislative influence.

The European Parliament’s real progress, however, came on budgetary matters. In 1975, the Treaty of Brussels granted the Assembly the right to reject the European Community’s draft budget outright in the event of serious disagreement with the Council, obliging the Council to modify it. From then on, the President of the European Parliament had to sign the Community budget for it to enter into force. The Treaty of Brussels also granted the European Parliament the power to give a discharge to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the budget.

Since 1979, EU citizens have directly elected Members of the European Parliament for a five-year term.

Most Senior MEP Louise Weiss Chairs Plenary SessionLouise Weiss chairs the Plenary as the most senior member during the election of Simone Veil © European Communities 1979

What’s in the Archives?

The Fonds include parliamentary reports and other related documents (e.g. amendments, working documents), parliamentary questions, motions for resolutions, statements, minutes of committee meetings and Members’ debates and speeches during plenary sittings. The most common procedure is parliamentary reports. Other procedures have gained importance over time, including parliamentary questions.

The documents highlight the expansion of the Parliament’s role within the institutional architecture of the Community and the European Union and show that Parliament has used its competencies to strengthen its own position.

What documents are included?

Given the scope of the Treaties and the Assembly’s internal structure, most files relate to the work of parliamentary committees and the proceedings of plenary sessions (parliamentary reports and meeting minutes). Although the existence of parliamentary committees did not stem from the express will of the signatories to the Treaties, these bodies were inherent in the parliamentary system of all Member States. The ever-increasing number of parliamentary committees illustrates the practice that has been established in this area for years and gives a good example of the complexity of parliamentary activity over time. 

The most common procedure is parliamentary reports. Based on a document from the Executives or an internal initiative of the Assembly/Parliament, a parliamentary committee would propose a report to the plenary session for the approval or rejection of Assembly/Parliament. Other procedures that were described in the Rules of Procedure also gained ground over time, such as parliamentary questions and petitions.

Documents from delegations of the European Parliament are also considered documents relating to parliamentary activity. Since 1975, the Directorate-General for Parliamentary Committees and Delegations has coordinated the work of the delegations for which it was responsible and followed up on relevant files. Delegations maintain and develop Parliament’s international contacts with the parliaments of the traditional partner States and with the parliaments of third countries. Visit reports, delegation minutes, minutes of interparliamentary meetings and files on the situation of the countries comprise a large part of the fonds.

Agriculture Committee Meeting of February 1978Roger Houdet, Jean Deleau, Jean Durieux, Gerard de Caffarelli, Henri-Guy Caillavet and Niels Anker Kofoed in the Agriculture Committee Meeting of February 1978 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg © European Communities 1978 – European Parliament 

The topics involved are connected to the scope of the Treaties: atomic energy and its civil uses and the various aspects of the single market. These include:

  • Political and institutional affairs
  • Trade policy and economic cooperation with third countries
  • Agriculture
  • Social policy
  • Internal market of the Community (free movement of goods, people, services and capital)
  • Long-term economic policy, financial matters and investments
  • Association of the overseas countries and territories
  • Transport
  • Energy policy
  • Scientific and technical research
  • Security, occupational health and health protection
  • Interinstitutional relations

Organisation of the Fonds

For each parliamentary term, the documents are structured on the same pattern reflecting the legislative work of the Parliament: parliamentary reports, motions for resolutions, parliamentary questions, plenary debates, minutes of plenary sittings, minutes of committee meetings. Documents are organised according to the same structure for each term in order to reflect Parliament’s activity.

Plenary Session in Strasbourg in 1967Members of the Parliament attend a plenary session in the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in 1967 © European Communities 1967