What does an MEP do? An ‘intensive’ job that helps to shape key EU policy

European elections: We elect them once every five years but what do they do with your vote?

Whether you are a first-time voter, or casting your ballot again in a European election – the last one having taken place in 2019 – you may wonder what exactly a member of the European Parliament (MEP) does, and why does your vote count.

The European Parliament is one of the three main EU institutions that run the 27-member European Union. Along with EU governments, it decides on laws that govern common European policies and the EU market of almost 450 million people.

How many MEPs does Ireland have?

Ireland currently has 13 MEPs representing three European constituencies and will gain an extra seat after the elections on June 7th, bringing the total number to 14. They will form part of a 720-strong European assembly for the next five years.

In a nutshell, MEPs represent their constituents on European issues. They sit in political groups and these are organised by political affiliation. MEPs split their time between Strasbourg,Brussels and their constituencies.


What does an MEP’s average week look like?

MEPs are expected to divide their time between representing their constituents on key matters, contributing to scheduled debates, participating in negotiations and taking part in votes in committees and during plenary sessions.

Retiring Fine Gael MEP Frances Fitzgerald says the workload is “intensive” with 7am starts and 10pm finishes commonplace.

“You are spending three to four days of the week in Brussels, and then every fourth week you are in Strasbourg where the plenary takes place. That’s where all the important voting takes place.

“Every six weeks there is what is called a ‘green week’, to work back in your home country or for the committees doing investigative work abroad, such as when we were looking at disinformation.

“You will also have what’s called a group week where you are working on position papers.”

Another layer of work is at committee level, of which there are many. “Many MEPs will specialise in one or two. I am on the economic committee, for example. However, the most important thing is getting directives through.”

Every directive also has a rapporteur or shadow rapporteur, she says. This person is tasked with working out the parliament’s position and holding negotiations with the Council of Ministers and the European Commission as part of what is called a trilogue. The aim of the trilogue is to reach a provisional agreement on a legislative proposal that is acceptable to both the parliament and the Council.

Then, there are the lobbyists: There are endless people seeking to meet MEPs, all of which must be declared.

What are the big decisions MEPs make?

The parliament will shape crucial policies identified by EU leaders as priorities for the next five years, such as:

  • the EU’s transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • industrial policy to keep the EU competitive against China and the United States
  • an EU energy union to lower energy prices and make supply more stable
  • boosting the EU’s defence production capabilities

What other powers do MEPs have?

The results of the election will influence the choice of the next head of the commission, the executive arm that has the exclusive power to propose new EU laws. (The parliament cannot initiate legislation but can ask the commission to do so.)

The next parliament will co-decide with EU governments on the next EU budget for 2028-2034, which is now about €1.1 trillion.

In addition, the parliament will consider reform of the EU’s internal agriculture policy ahead of possible enlargement of the union to include Ukraine.

What is an MEP paid?

An MEP’s monthly salary is €10,075.18 gross and €7,853.89 net, after the deduction of EU taxes and insurance contributions. Former members are also entitled to a pension when they turn 63. – Additional reporting Reuters