Brussels: European Parliament elections which will unfold across Europe between May 22-25 mark the start of a new, five-year European Union political cycle, with a raft of new leaders to be installed.
The vote will trigger a number of important leadership changes taking place over several months. Here are the main dates:
May 22-25: European Parliament elections take place in all 28 member countries. Over 380 million voters will choose 751 Member of the European Parliament (MEPs), with the number of those elected from each country reflecting population size. Germany will elect 96 MEPs, while small Luxembourg and Malta will each have six.
May 27: Herman Van Rompuy, who as President of the European Council represents the bloc`s 28 national governments, will host an informal dinner of EU leaders to discuss the election results. Under new rules to enhance direct democratic practices in the EU, the leaders must take into account the election outcome when designating the new president of the European Commission, the EU`s executive.
June: Political parties negotiate alliances to form the main groupings on the floor of the European Parliament. To obtain official recognition, a party must have a minimum of 25 MEPs elected from at least seven member states.
July 1-3: The first session of Parliament will elect its president, or speaker. To be chosen a candidate must obtain an absolute parliamentary majority.
14-17 July: The successor of current Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is named.
Working through the European Council, the 28 heads of state and government will submit to Parliament the name of the person they have chosen to head the Commission. That candidate must then garner majority support -- that is, have the backing of 376 MEPs. If this candidate is rejected, the Council has up to a month to put forward another name.
Once the European Commission has been selected, the member states work with him/her to name the remaining 27 European commissioners, one for each member state.
September: Parliamentary hearings are held to vet the new commissioners, including the key position of High Representative, the office which oversees the EU`s foreign affairs policy. There have been occasions in the past when candidates have been rejected by Parliament or their portfolios changed.
October: The new European Commission president presents his or her new team to Parliament for approval, while also outlining policy goals.
November: Leaders of EU member states choose a replacement for Van Rompuy as head of the powerful European Council.