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Learn the most interesting facts about European Parliament elections

History of the European Parliament

The European Parliament started out as a mere consultative body

The European Parliament comes from very humble beginnings. During its infant years, it functioned simply as a consultative body without any real power except to supervise the High Authority.

How many representatives had the first European Parliament?

The first Common Assembly was composed of 78 appointees from the six member states of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and was set up the 10th of September 1952. Its first president was Paul-Henri Spaak, former Prime Minister of Belgium.

When did the first European Parliament elections take place?

By the 1970s, the European Communities had six administrative bodies. The European Council and the Court of Auditors were added to the already existing High Authority (now called the Commission), the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, and the Court of Justice.

But none of the members of these bodies were directly elected to the European Communities. The obvious lack of democratic mechanisms fuelled the need for parliamentary elections.

The 1967 Commission led by Belgian politician Jean Rey launched the campaign for European Parliament elections. The act calling for elections every five years was adopted in 1976.

Finally, in June 1979, the first European Parliament elections were held, and 410 Members of the European Parliament or MEPs were elected from nine countries. By this time, Britain, Denmark, and Ireland had joined the European Communities.

Who was the first elected European Parliament president?

The first president of the elected European Parliament was a woman – celebrated lawyer and politician, and a Holocaust survivor, Simone Veil, of the Liberals and Democrats. Only 2 other women have held the office since – fellow Frenchwoman Nicole Fontaine of the European People’s Party (1999 - 2002) and Roberta Metsola (2022-2024) in replacement of the deceased European Parliament President, David Sassoli.

Which are the 3 oldest political groups in the European Parliament?

The transnational political groups forming the Christian democrats, the socialists, and the liberals in the EU have been around since the early beginnings of the European Parliament.

In 1953, the centre-right Christian democrats and conservatives began organising themselves into the Christian Democratic Group and later changed their name to European People’s Party (EPP). The centre-left social-democratic parties formed the Socialist Group, now known as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). And the liberals and democrats assembled under the Liberal Group, which we now call the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

The European Parliament has undergone two name changes

In 1958, the Common Assembly changed its name to the European Parliamentary Assembly. However, it remained a consultative body of appointed members. The European Parliamentary Assembly served as a consultative body for the three organisations, which all together came to be called the European Communities (EC). In 1962, the Assembly finally assumed its current name, the European Parliament. But it didn’t see any significant increase in powers until the 1970s.

When did the European Parliament reach its highest number of MEPs?

The European Parliament was at its largest from 2007 to 2009.

In 2007, the European Parliament reached its highest number of 785 MEPs when Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Communities, which was already called the European Union by then.

The Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force in December 2009, set a maximum number of 751 MEPs. No EU country can have more than 96 seats or less than 6 seats, according to the treaty.

The European Parliament shrank in size when Brexit happened. The departure of 73 MEPs from the United Kingdom reduced the number of parliamentary seats from 751 to 705.

Gender and EU Elections

What was the percentage of women MEPs in the first European Parliament?

In 1979, in the first directly-elected European Parliament at the first parliament, there were just 68 female MEPs, accounting for 15.2%. That proportion has grown ever since. In 2018, there were 271 female MEPs. However, that is still considered a low number when taking into consideration that there are 480 male MEPs. Currently women account for 39.3% of the total number of MEPs.

Which country currently has the highest proportion of female MEPs? And the lowest?

Finland currently has the highest proportion of female MEPs, at 77%. Its neighbour Estonia has the lowest – under 17%.

Members of the European Parliament

An MEP may decide not to belong to any political party

MEPs can belong to only one political group, but may choose not to belong to any; they are then called non-attached (in the table above, the non-attached members are designated as NI, from the French abbreviation for “non-inscrits”). Currently, 45 MEPs have opted not to join a political group.

What is the average age of an MEP?

The average age of an MEP, taking into account the period 2014-2019, is around 55-years-old. The oldest member, from France, was aged 90 and the youngest MEP, from Belgium, was 30-years-old.

Who is the longest serving MEP?

Germany has the longest running MEP who has severed for just under three decades - Elmar Brok. He was first elected in 1980 and served until 2019 after losing a spot on the list of his party, the Christian Democratic Union.

Who is the youngest ever MEP?

Kira Marie Peter-Hansen (born 23 February 1998) is a Danish politician and a Socialist People's Party (part of the Greens-European Free Alliance group) Member of the European Parliament (MEP). She was elected in the 2019 European parliamentary elections when she was only 21 years old while studying at university.

Who is the oldest ever MEP?

This title is shared by Louise Weiss and Jean-Marie Le Pen.

On 17 July 1979, Louise Weisse (born 25 January, 1893) was elected as a French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and sat with the European People's Party. At the time of the first election she was aged 86 and remained MEP until her death, on 26 May 1983, aged 90. The main parliament building in Strasbourg bears her name.

From 1984 into the early 21st century, Jean-Marie Le Pen (born June 20, 1928), served as an elected member of the European Parliament.

Which country has the largest number of MEPs?

The number of seats each country receives is based on the size of the population. The member state with the largest population is Germany (84.4 million) who in 2019 voted in 96 MEPs. France is the second largest, with 74 MEPs.

EU Elections

Where is the furthest voting location from Brussels?

The place farthest from Brussels to vote in the election is the French special collectivity of New Caledonia – 16,296km from the EU capital, in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Only 1 country in the EU allows voting online

Estonia is the only country in the European Union that allows its citizens to vote in the upcoming MEP elections online. The majority of the EU also enable citizens to vote by post, and a handful allow a proxy vote as well. In Malta, this year, voting will remain manual but the counting process will be done electronically.

Not all EU countries vote at the same time

Election days can be different. The elections normally start on a Thursday (the day on which the Netherlands usually vote) and finish on a Sunday (when most countries hold their elections). However, no EU country can publish any results until polls have closed in all other member states.

Which country has the highest non-compulsory voting turn out?

Malta has the highest non-compulsory turn out across Europe, with an 82.4% turn out in 2004, a 78.8% turn out in 2009 and a 74.8% turn out in 2014.

Other facts

How many official headquarters does the European Parliament have?

Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg are the three official cities of the European Parliament, but Strasbourg is considered the main seat.

MEPs hold their monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg. Additional plenary sessions and meetings of parliamentary committees and political groups take place in Brussels. The European Parliament’s Secretariat is located in Luxembourg.

English is no longer the official language of any member state

After Brexit, there are only be two member states, Ireland and Malta where English is an official language. However, in Ireland, the EU nominated language is Irish, and in Malta it is Maltese.

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