The European Parliament is the legislative assembly of the European Union (EU) and traces its origin to 1958, when it began as the Common Assembly. At first only a consultative body, its powers have grown and it now passes laws in partnership with the EU Council of Ministers. It consists of 626 representatives elected by direct universal suffrage, and its Web site is available in 20 different languages.
Users who want to browse the site can easily start with either the subject index or the site map, both of which can be selected from a drop down menu. Part of the site is devoted to the organization of the Parliament itself, with information on its members, activities, sessions, and hearings, as well as a "Citizens' Portal" to facilitate communication between EU citizens/residents and Parliament. The most useful portion for students and faculty, however, should be the many primary documents that are available.
To search for documents, use the "Search Guide" from the drop down menu. Using the "Search Guide," one can search by words or by specific categories of documents, such as parliamentary debates, committee reports, minutes of proceedings, and texts adopted, each of which has different searching features. Some categories allow full text searching, while others can only be retrieved by date. Although some documents are directly accessible, others can be retrieved only by special request, in which case the user must fill out a request form and wait for the document to be transmitted to them. Some documents may be restricted.
Other useful information on the Europarl site is a page on human rights (both within and outside the EU), as well as documents relating to the STOA Programme (Scientific and Technological Options Assessment). The Europarl Web site should be of particular interest to political science, government, and law school faculty and students. A comprehensive site search feature would be a welcome improvement.
John A. Drobnicki