A quick guide to the EUWhat is an MEP?What do the parties say?A Soul for the Union

What is an MEP?


MEP means Member of the European Parliament. MEPs are elected by EU citizens to represent them in the European Parliament. There are 751 MEPs in the European Parliament, of which 73 are from the UK. The number of MEPs allocated to a member country is roughly determined by its population size. The UK is divided up into 12 constituencies with varying numbers of MEPs to represent them, who are elected by a form of proportional representation.


What do MEPs do?

The life of an MEP is divided up into four main areas, each given a week per month.

Plenary

This is when all 751 MEPs come together in the big chamber in Strasbourg to vote on legislation. This is an intense week as they want to be able to vote on as many pieces of legislation as possible.

Parliamentary Committees

Much of the work MEPs do is preparatory and takes place in Brussels. Select committees deal with different areas of policy such as human rights, security and defence, transport and tourism, and the environment. They are made up of MEPs according to their areas of expertise. Proposals for legislation come from the European Commission and the European Council, and are discussed and amended in these committees. In total, there are about 20 select committees, each dealing with a different policy area.

Political Groups

The other part of the preparatory work undertaken by MEPs is done in Political Groups, also in Brussels. These are determined by the political affiliation of each MEP. There are currently 8 Political Groups in the European Parliament, such as the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats or the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. Not every MEP is in a political group, but all of the main UK political parties are affiliated to one of the European groups. In these meetings, the political groups define their priorities, which in turn have an impact on the agendas for the Parliamentary Committees and even the Plenary sessions.

Constituencies

The final area of work for an MEP is in their constituency. In this week, they spend time in their constituency getting to know the people they represent and learning what they can do to work for them.


Why is it important for Christians to be engaged at this level?

As Christians, we are called to be ‘salt and light’ in the world, impacting every area of society for God. The European Union has a wide influence of power, and our MEPs are able to have a direct say in its running through their roles in the European Parliament. All EU legislation is voted on in the European Parliament, and the Parliament has other important roles such as the approval of the EU budget, meaning that MEPs are able to make a difference. It therefore makes sense that Christians should be seeking to be engaged at this level, being salt and light in the corridors of Strasbourg and Brussels.

The Bible also contains examples of God’s people working with those of different nationalities on behalf of their nations. One only needs to look at Joseph in the Egyptian court, Daniel in the Babylonian one, and Esther in the Persian one, to see that God was at work through these political figures to save His people. The European Parliament needs more Christians to step up and seek to serve God, becoming the Josephs, and Daniels, and Esthers of the European Union.


How can I become an MEP?

First of all, you must be eligible. An applicant must be over 18 years of age and a British or Irish Citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of an EU member country who lives in the UK or Gibraltar.

In addition, there are several disqualifying features. You cannot be an MEP if you hold a certain post such as being a judge, a civil servant, or a member of the armed forces or police force. You are also disqualified if you have been found guilty of certain electoral offences, are a prisoner detained for more than one year, or have restrictions placed on you because of bankruptcy.

Whilst some MEPs are Independent, most are part of a political party. Each party has a different process for selecting people to stand as an MEP, but in general, the requirements are that the person is a party member, is actively involved within the party, and has to be successful in the application process.

It is important to have a good understanding of the European Union and how it works, as well as some of the areas in which it legislates.

MEPs come from all walks of life. Some have already held political office in their home nations, whilst others go on to do so after being MEPs. The current MEPs for the UK have come from a diverse range of backgrounds, from farmers, to charity workers, to trade-unionists, to doctors, to political activists.


Other ways of getting involved:

  • Write to your MEP
  • http://europa.eu/eu-law/have-your-say/index_en.htm
  • Ways of having your say: European Citizens’ Initiative (ask the European Commission to propose legislation on your behalf), public consultations on proposals for legislation, petitions on issues to the EU, Citizens’ Dialogues take place in cities across the EU where EU citizens can have their say.