12/05/2014 07:25 BST | Updated 12/07/2014 06:59 BST

What the European Parliament Has Done for You Over the Past Five Years


As people from 28 countries get ready to vote for a new European Parliament on 22-25 May, it's worth looking back at what MEPs have achieved over the past five years.

The past legislative term stands out for two reasons. The European Parliament had more power than ever before as a result of the Lisbon Treaty and it used that clout to help the EU deal with the financial crisis. From the moment the treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009, Parliament had an equal say on nearly all legislative proposals alongside the Council, representing national governments, and for the first time was able to vote on international agreements.

The top priority over the last five years was to create the conditions for economic growth and jobs. In negotiations for the EU's long-term budget for 2014-2020, MEPs pushed to maintain funding for investment, scientific research and stimulating employment. The Parliament also campaigned for an EU-wide youth guarantee scheme, entitling any young person who has been unemployed for three months or more to a job, education or training. Although MEPs understand the need for budgetary discipline, they often stressed that austerity was not the only way towards recovery. Parliament also launched an inquiry into how the Troika operated in the bailout countries and its impact on people's lives.

Parliament took action to prevent a future financial crisis in Europe by approving new rules for rating agencies and pushing for limits on bankers' bonuses to discourage reckless risk taking. MEPs also paved the way for a banking union by approving plans to let the European Central Bank supervise banks and agreeing the introduction of a Single Resolution Mechanism - to govern the winding up of failing banks. In negotiations with the Council, Parliament insisted that tax payers should always be last to contribute towards the cost of rescuing a bank.

MEPs used their newly acquired say on international treaties to slap down the controversial Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA). Many people feared that ACTA would have given large companies too much power at the cost of consumers' rights.

Even before the revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the Parliament pleaded in favour of stronger protection of personal privacy. MEPs believe Europeans should have more control over their own data and that strong safeguards are needed when transferring data to countries outside the EU.

Parliament also continued to call attention to human rights: debating infringements during each plenary session; insisting on specific clauses to safeguard human rights in international agreements; and awarding the Sakharov Prize to an exemplar in the field. The 2013 laureate was Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani campaigner for girls' education, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her stance.

Although much has been achieved by the 7th legislature, the work is far from complete. Europe has yet to resume full economic growth, many banks are still ailing and millions continue to be unemployed. The results of the European elections in May will not only determine the direction the EU will take, but how it will tackle these issues.

Photo copyright European Parliament