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Guide to the European Parliament: Introduction

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media captionHow the European Parliament works

The European Parliament is the only directly elected EU body. It represents the citizens of the EU, in contrast to the Council of Ministers, which represents the governments.

Elections have been held every five years since 1979 - before that, members were drawn from national parliaments.

The European Parliament's powers have steadily increased with each change of the EU treaties. Many laws in member states now stem from the need to implement European legislation.