The European Parliament (EP) is one of three legislative branches of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legislation, normally on a proposal from the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 705 members (MEPs).
Since 1979, it has been directly elected every five years by European Union citizens, using universal suffrage.
Although the European Parliament has legislative power, as does the Council, it does not formally possess legislative initiative (which is the prerogative of the European Commission), as most national parliaments of European Union member states do. The Parliament is the “first institution” of the EU (mentioned first in the treaties, having ceremonial precedence over all authority at the European level).