Frequently Asked Questions

The EU has grown in size, from 6 countries to the current total of 27, and has expanded its responsibilities over the years. The roles of the three main institutions - the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers have changed over time. The Commission’s role is mostly to draft legislative texts, check that Member States have implemented legislation and report back to Council and Parliament. Each national government is represented within the Council, and the European Parliament is directly elected. The Parliament began as a purely consultative body but over the past 25 years it has gradually increased its power to become a co-legislator with the Council in a majority of policy areas. The process by which the Parliament and Council co-legislate is known as the co-decision procedure.

Each MEP is on one or more committees. There are 20 committees in total which deal with a wide range of issues, including the internal market, the environment, agricultural issues, transport, etc.

Temporary committees can also be set up for a year to deal with more specific issues. Currently there is a temporary committee looking at and evaluating the extent of the financial, economic and social crisis, its impact on the Union and its Member States and to propose appropriate long-term reconstruction of stable financial markets able to support future growth.

A Commission proposal for legislation will be given to one or more committees, with one committee named responsible and the others asked for opinions. A draftsman (or "rapporteur") will be appointed to draft a report which includes amendments to the Commission’s text. Any MEP can then table amendments to this report. Amendments can be adopted only by a majority of the MEPs in committee.

The Parliament produces reports on non-legislative texts (e.g. white and green papers) giving its suggestions for future action. Committees may also produce own-initiative reports.

The report adopted in committee is then discussed and voted on by the whole Parliament in one of its plenary sessions. Amendments at plenary stage must be tabled by a political group or at least 37 MEPs.

Once Parliament has adopted a legislative text at first reading, it goes to the Council. The Council can decide to accept or reject Parliament’s suggestions and puts forward its own amendments to the text, which is known as the Common Position. The proposal for legislation then returns to the Parliament for second reading. In the case where no agreement can be reached between the Parliament and Council after the second reading, the two institutions meet in a conciliation committee to come to a final agreement.

The Parliament also has a Petitions Committee which deals with petitions from EU citizens. The Committee draws up reports on petitions declared admissible and may organise hearings at which the petitioner is invited to speak.

The Parliament has supervisory powers over the Commission. MEPs interview the prospective commissioners for each new Commission who are subject to Parliament’s approval. Commissioners and Commission staff attend committee meetings and are questioned on overall policy and on specific issues with the public and press present. MEPs can also put written and oral questions to both the Commission and Council. Oral questions and follow-up supplementaries are discussed during the plenary sessions of Parliament. We are readily able to meet with Commissioners and their staff or get a full reply to a personal letter or telephone call, in order to deal with constituents’ problems or to help with aspects of our legislative work.

Scotland is one electoral region and has 6 MEPs, all of whom represent you as a Scottish citizen. Under the proportional representation system, voters vote for political parties rather than individual candidates. The number of MEPs each party has in each region depends on the number of votes cast for each part in that region. Scotland has 1 Conservative MEP in the European Parliament.

The Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups, of which there are 7.

The British Conservatives sit in the recently formed European Conservatives and Reformist Group. It consists of eight political parties all of which support fundamental reform to the EU to make it more accountable, transparent and responsive.

A Petition may be defined as a complaint, a demand for action, or a request for review. The European Parliament's Committee on Petitions examines matters raised by citizens and takes appropriate action.

You may submit a petition if you are:

  • A citizen of the European Union.
  • A non-Community citizen residing in a Member State of the European Union.
  • A legal person or association registered in a Member State.

What subjects can your petition deal with?:

  • A matter of general concern.
  • An individual complaint.
  • A request for the European Parliament to take a stance on an area of public interest.

All cases must fall within the sphere of activities of the European Union.

More information about Petitions and the European Parliament in general can be found on the parliament's website at

If you have a problem at a European level, Struan Stevenson MEP may be able to help.

In addition, there are several other avenues you can try:

If you don't know where to start, EuropeDirect is a freephone information service, Tel: 0800 6789 10 11

Scotland Europa provides specialised information and contacts for Scottish organisations.

Scottish Enterprise is the main authority in charge of channelling EU funding towards new and established businesses in order to improve the competitiveness of the EU. Tel: 08456 078787

If you want to live, work or study in another Member State, the Citizens Signpost Service provides free expert advice:

Solvit is an online problem-solving network. It can help citizens and businesses with complaints relating to living, working, studying or setting up a business in another Member State.

The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty to deal with complaints from citizens, companies, organisations and public authorities about maladministration by the institutions and bodies of the European Community.

You can find information on EU grants and loans at: