Although the two institutions of the EU's executive, the European Commission and the European Council, both have their seats in Brussels, a protocol attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam[?] requires the European Parliament to have monthly sessions in Strasbourg. For practical reasons however, all preparatory legislative work and committee meetings of the Parliament take place in Brussels. The Parliament only spends 4 days per month in Strasbourg in order to take the final, plenary votes. Additional plenary meetings are held in Brussels. On several occasions Parliament has expressed a wish to choose itself the location of its seat, but in the successive treaties, including the newest Treaty of Nice, European governments keep reserving this right for themselves.
Note the European Parliament party groups are distinct from the corresponding political parties, although they are intimately linked. Usually, the European parties also have member parties from European countries which are not members of the European Union.
Some of the members of the European Parliament preferred not to belong to any political group. These independent members are referred to as NI (Non-Inscrits).
The European Parliament is elected every five years; the next elections will be in 2004. It represents 374 mio. citizens of the European Union, starting with the eastern expansion in 2004 this will increase to 450 mio. people. There are at the moment 626 Members of European Parliament[?] (MEP), with a proptionally larger representation for smaller member states. This number will increase in 2004 as well.
If you look at the representation per member state, that is: