10 things about the European Parliament elections

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Elections for a new European Parliament take place from May 22-25 across the 28 European Union countries.

Here are 10 facts on the vote.

1. DATE: MAY 22-25

Some 382 million people cast their votes on different days; in Britain and the Netherlands on May 22; in Ireland and the Czech Republic (over two days) on May 23; on May 24 it is notably Latvia, Malta and Slovakia's turn. The remaining 21 countries vote on Sunday, May 25.

2. 751 MEPs

Seats allocated to each country vary according to its population. Germany gets 96 MEPs, or members of the European Parliament, followed by France with 74, and Italy and the UK with 73 each. Smaller countries Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus and Estonia each elect six members.

3. 1979

The European Parliament has been elected by universal suffrage since 1979, making this year's poll the eighth in history. Before that, Parliament was made up of representatives from national parliaments. MEPs are elected for five-year terms.

4. ABSTENTION

Voting is compulsory in four countries - Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg - while turnout in the EU overall has been declining in recent years. In 1979, 63 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, 20 years later that had gone down to 43 percent.

5. SEVEN POLITICAL GROUPS

MEPs form groups along ideological, not national, lines, with seven officially recognised in the outgoing Parliament. They are, in order of size, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Liberals (ALDE), Greens, the radical left (GUE/NGL), ECR eurosceptics (mainly British, Polish and Czechs) and eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD). Far-right parties hope to create a new group.

6. THE NEXT STAGE: FOUR TOP JOBS

After the poll, the top four EU jobs will be up for grabs. Potentially most powerful is the presidency of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. This time for the first time, heads of government must take into account the voters' choice when they designate the new Commission chief. Talks on that begin at a summit dinner on Tuesday.

7. PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT

The key post of European Parliament president, or speaker, shared in the outgoing legislature by the centre-right EPP and Socialist S&D, will be determined by vote at the new assembly's first session July 1 to 3.

8. EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT

Heads of state and government will decide who takes over from Herman Van Rompuy as the European Council president in November.

9. THE 28-MEMBER COMMISSION

Once the Commission president has been chosen, the remaining 27 commissioners will be appointed, giving one position for each member state. Among them is the EU's foreign policy chief, a position now held by Britain's Catherine Ashton.

10. ONE SEAT, TWO WORKPLACES

The European Parliament has an unusual arrangement under which it holds 12 plenary sessions a year in the French city of Strasbourg but the bulk of its committee work takes place in Brussels. So each month some 5,000 people - political staffers, public servants, interpreters - travel between the two.