Over the course of its existence, the European Parliament has transformed itself from an assembly with limited powers to a decision-making body directly shaping EU policies. It has been a long road, but one of the milestones was 20 September 1976, when ministers signed rules allowing direct European elections. The elections, held about three years later, gave new democratic legitimacy to the Parliament and allowed MEPs to seek more powers in shaping European policies.
The act concerning the election of the representatives of the Assembly by direct universal suffrage was signed in Brussels by representatives of the then nine member states of the European Communities. It closely followed the text of a draft convention proposed by the European Parliament in 1975.
Тhe 1952 Paris Treaty envisaged the possibility of holding direct elections for the Assembly, but at the time member states preferred to designate representatives from their national parliaments.
Georges Spénale, then president of the European Parliament, told ministers at the signing: “We are perfectly aware that in Europe today there are many things which can seem infinitely more urgent than an institutional problem. We know very well that we are encircled by inflation, unemployment, monetary disorder… This date of September 20th marks out a big date for the Communities, the one where the way is opened from now on to the Europe of citizens, alongside the Europe of the States.”
photo: europarl.europa.eu/ Parliament President Georges Spénale addressing the ministers at the signing ceremony (Brussels, 20 September 1976)