MEPs hard at work during a committee meeting
When MEPs take up their duties in the new Parliament, on 1 July, one of the first things to do is to see which parliamentary committees they will join. It is a key decision, as it will determine in which field they will focus most of their efforts. Committees play a crucial role in policy-making, as they are responsible for drafting Parliament's positions on new legislative proposals.
Every month two weeks are set aside for committee work. During committee meetings MEPs discuss legislative and non-legislative reports, propose and vote on amendments and follow up on negotiations with the Council. Committees also organise hearings with experts, scrutinise EU institutions and bodies, and prepare own-initiative reports that are not legally binding, but indicate Parliament’s views on a subject.
There were 20 standing committees in the 2009-2014 Parliament, covering the whole range of EU competencies from international trade to consumer protection and gender equality. Parliament may also set up committees of inquiry and special committees. In the previous term there were three special committees: on policy challenges, on the crisis and on organised crime.
The size of committees varies significantly, but their composition reflects the weight each political group has in the Parliament as a whole.
On any given subject, committees appoint an MEP from their ranks as rapporteur to draft the Parliament's position on each new legislative proposal. The Parliament's position is known as a report. The political groups then propose amendments to the text the MEP has written and try to agree on a compromise text to be submitted to the plenary for approval.