The OED definition of legislator is:

A person who makes laws; a member of a legislative body.

A semi-colon is not read as an “or” but as an “and.”

Does this mean a legislator must have the right to formally initiate the law making process?

For example, MEPs have the following formal legislative powers:

  • indicate agreement (or not) to proposed laws handed to them
  • form a consultative body

They do not hold formal power to:

  • change law
  • repeal law
  • create law
  • draft law

They can merely indicate assent/dissent to laws given to them.

Do MEPs still meet the definition of a legislator?

  • 4
    Now you've removed the main part about the EU from your question altogether rendering my answer invalid. I'd be happy to answer the new question, but it's rather rude to render answers invalid like that (or I'd have to edit out my old answer too?). Please revert the edit and post this as a new question.
    – JJJ
    Jun 13, 2019 at 13:32
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    The various revisions and contortions appear to be simply to get an answer that says "MEPs are not legislators".
    – Jontia
    Jun 13, 2019 at 13:39
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    The title doesn't match the body. Perhaps "Must legislators hold ..." or "Do MEPs hold ..." might be better. Jun 13, 2019 at 20:03
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    I'm guessing that "MEP" means "Members of European Parliament," but it would probably be a good idea to state that in the question for those who aren't in Europe. Also, which question is being asked? Whether legislators have the right of legislative initiative or whether MEPs are legislators? It would be good for the title to match the question body.
    – reirab
    Jun 13, 2019 at 22:54
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2 Answers 2


In general

In general, legislatures do not require the right of initiative (or even the right of amendment) to be called a legislature or for their members to be called legislators.

A specific example is the Dutch Senate, members of which don't have either right (initiative or amendment), yet it is called a legislature and it is the upper chamber of the States General of the Netherlands which is a bicameral legislature.

In particular, I expect to see similar situations in other bicameral systems (especially when not modelled after the Westminster system which does have right of initiative and amendment in both chambers).

In the case of MEPs

Do MEPs still meet the definition of a legislator?

Yes, because the European Parliament is a legislative body. The definition of legislative body from Wiktionary:

A political institution which holds the legislative power in a state, and often controls the executive power.

The Parliament is one of the bodies involved in the ordinary legislative procedure, according to Wikipedia:

Article 294 TFEU outlines ordinary legislative procedure in the following manner. The Commission submits a legislative proposal to the Parliament and Council.

At the first reading Parliament adopts its position. If the Council approves the Parliament's wording then the act is adopted. If not, it shall adopt its own position and pass it back to Parliament with explanations. The Commission also informs Parliament of its position on the matter. At the second reading, the act is adopted if Parliament approves the Council's text or fails to take a decision. The Parliament may reject the Council's text, leading to a failure of the law, or modify it and pass it back to the Council. The Commission gives its opinion once more. Where the Commission has rejected amendments in its opinion, the Council must act unanimously rather than by majority.

In practice, this gives the Parliament and the Council somewhat equal importance, according to Wikipedia:

With each new treaty, the powers of the Parliament, in terms of its role in the Union's legislative procedures, have expanded. The procedure which has slowly become dominant is the "ordinary legislative procedure" (previously named "codecision procedure"), which provides an equal footing between Parliament and Council.

In particular, under the procedure, the Commission presents a proposal to Parliament and the Council which can only become law if both agree on a text, which they do (or not) through successive readings up to a maximum of three. In its first reading, Parliament may send amendments to the Council which can either adopt the text with those amendments or send back a "common position". That position may either be approved by Parliament, or it may reject the text by an absolute majority, causing it to fail, or it may adopt further amendments, also by an absolute majority. If the Council does not approve these, then a "Conciliation Committee" is formed.

  • The Civil Service is involved in the legislative procedure but civil servants are not legislators?
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 13, 2019 at 11:08
  • @Ben which legislative body are they part of? I added the definition of a legislative body (from Wiktionary) to my answer.
    – JJJ
    Jun 13, 2019 at 11:11
  • That wiktionary definition is unfortunately circular. “A legislative body... holds the legislative power.” Tellers and ushers are part of a legislative body and yet are not legislators. MEPs have a scrutiny and consultatative role. I guess this comes down to this: do you have to hold the power to formally initiate the lawmaking process to be called a legislator?
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 13, 2019 at 12:51
  • @Ben it seems like you're trying to pull some semantic stunts, but the definitions are quite clear. Your last question is different from the question you asked and it's probably too technical to base merely on a dictionary. In general I would say no, many higher chambers in bicameral bodies could also be called legislators, at least in general everyday conversation. If that's really what you wanted to ask, I suggest doing so in a different question focusing on the semantic part without asking about any legislature in particular. Or maybe ask ELU, but they might just send it back here.
    – JJJ
    Jun 13, 2019 at 12:59
  • @Ben: "do you have to hold the power to formally initiate the lawmaking process to be called a legislator?": yes. There is a clear difference between a member of a legislative body (so, someone who holds that power) and that body's staff (security people, administrators, advisors, etc). If nothing else, they're different from an employment point of view, in that they are quite different jobs, and legislators tend to get their jobs by different means (e.g. by election, though some may be appointed). Jun 13, 2019 at 13:09

MEPs do not merely consent/reject proposed legislation. The European Parliment is involved at all stages providing input and revision to legislation. Even if its role were limited to purely Assent/Rejection it would still be a legislative body, because no legislation can be passed without its approval. Unless we presume that the European Parliament works like a Black Box, where Proposals go In and Assent either comes out or doesn't then the Parliament must indicate what changes are required to secure their support.

EU Decision Making Most legislation is now done under Co-decision.

In the codecision procedure, Parliament does not merely give its opinion: it shares legislative power equally with the Council. If Council and Parliament cannot agree on a piece of proposed legislation, it is put before a conciliation committee, composed of equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives. Once this committee has reached an agreement, the text is sent once again to Parliament and the Council so that they can finally adopt it as law.

  • To be fair I did say that MEPs formed a consultative body, which presumably covers your first and second sentences?
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 13, 2019 at 13:54
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    A consultative body, such a the UK House of Lords can be ignored. The European Parliament cannot. This phrasing is based on the idea of these institutions a singular entities that have "made up their mind" rather than the reality of individuals within each house that may be influenced by external factors rather than the details of the legislation.
    – Jontia
    Jun 13, 2019 at 13:56
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    And if they don't adopt them, when it comes back for the next reading, it just gets rejected again. I think I have to point back to the reason I put on the close vote. No matter what contortions we put it through the EU Parliament is a legislative body.
    – Jontia
    Jun 13, 2019 at 14:36
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    @Ben how can the EP be a legislative body if its constituent members are not legislators? Contortions is going to become my new favourite word. And your second point about changes elsewhere is the point I was trying to make when talking about "institutions as singular entities" if the EP asks for changes, and the changes are not made there is no reason to suppose the legislation will pass.
    – Jontia
    Jun 13, 2019 at 15:11
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    @Ben I think most of the EU system (then ECSC) is modelled a lot after the Dutch system. I don't know where I read this, but in this case it makes some sense. I think in that read it was something about the history of the commission's structure (which also has some resemblance to the Dutch system). Unfortunately, I don't have the URL at hand.
    – JJJ
    Jun 13, 2019 at 17:19

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