With voters in Wales are heading to the polls who should serve the country as an MEP, the Argus looks at what the parliament does, how the vote works and how Wales benefits from the EU.

AFTER months of campaigning and debate, next week voters in Gwent and across Wales will head to the polls and choose who they want to represent them in the European Parliament.

On May 22, Welsh voters will be faced with a choice of 11 parties from across the political spectrum – from which just four MEPs will be elected.

They will be joining a huge institution which – after next week’s election – will have 751 MEPs, 73 of which come from the UK.

Unlike a general election, voters can’t pick individual MEPs and have to vote for party lists.

A system known as D’Hondt is used in England, Wales and Scotland to elect a proportional number of MEPs to the party’s share of the vote, and members are elected in order from the list of candidates.

So if the system dictates that two Labour MEPs should be elected, the no.1 and no.2 candidates on the list get elected.

Three of the four sitting MEPs are leading their respective party lists – Derek Vaughan for Labour, Jill Evans for Plaid and Kay Swinburne for the Tories. UKIP MEP John Bufton has stepped down for personal reasons.

The result will be announced on May 25 in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire.

But what does the European Parliament do?

Far from being one single institution, the European Union is made up of several – with the parliament being one of its major branches. The parliament has three main roles – scrutinising the work of other EU institutions, including commissioners, debating and adopting the EU’s budget and debating and passing European laws.

It does the latter two functions in conjunction with the Council of the European Union – which represents the governments of the 28 member countries.

Members of the executive branch of the EU – the commission – can’t take up their office as commissioners until parliament has approved them, and can call on the commission to resign.

MEPs also keep checks on the commission by examining reports the body produces and by questioning them.

The institution is split between two bases - Brussels and Strasbourg, France, the official seat and where MEPs gather for four days a month to vote and debate.

How much EU money is spent in Wales?

Much is made of how much money is spent in Wales, which benefits from EU funds designed to help boost economically disadvantaged areas of the union.

According to the Welsh European Funding Office, which is responsible for how the cash is spent, EU funds were worth £1.9 billion to Wales during the last round of spending between 2007 and 2013.

That is split up between £1.1 billion for European Regional Development Fund programmes and £756.6 million for European Social Fund schemes.

The ESF supports projects aimed at building skills and job prospects. They range from supporting apprenticeships to schemes like Jobs Growth Wales, aimed at young people finding work, to projects for people who have been made redundant.

The bulk of EU cash in Wales is spent in a region known as the West Wales and the Valleys area, which stretches from Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent right round to Denbighshire, while leaving out Powys, Newport, the Vale, Cardiff, Wrexham and Flintshire.

WEFO says 26,276 jobs have been created across Wales as a result of European funded programmes, with 1,697 in Caerphilly, 1,026 in Torfaen, 1,071 in Newport, 700 in Blaenau Gwent and 661 in Monmouthshire.

At least 57,027 people on European-sponsored programmes in Wales entered employment, with 4,617 in Caerphilly and 4,498 in Blaenau Gwent, according to WEFO.

There were 3,195 in Torfaen, 1,053 in Newport and 431 in Monmouthshire.

EU funds helped create 1,778 Gwent businesses, the figures claim, including 448 in Caerphilly, 457 in Newport, 324 in Torfaen, 329 in Monmouthshire and 220 in Blaenau Gwent.

Who’s running?

The full list of candidates for the Welsh constituency, in the order that they appear on their party’s list, is as follows:

Britain First: Paul Golding, Anthony Golding, Christine Smith, Anne Elstone

British National Party: Mike Whitby, Laurence Reid, Jean Griffin, Gary Tumulty

Conservative Party: Kay Swinburne, Aled Wyn Davies, Dan Boucher, Richard Hopkin

Green Party: Pippa Bartolotti, John Matthews, Chris Were, Rozz Cutler

Labour Party: Derek Vaughan, Jayne Bryant, Alex Thomas, Christina Rees

Liberal Democrats: Alec Dauncey, Robert Speht, Jackie Radford, Bruce Roberts

NO2EU: Robert Griffiths, Claire Job, Steven Skelly, Laura Picand

Plaid Cymru: Jill Evans, Marc Jones, Steven Cornelius, Ioan Bellin

Socialist Labour Party: Andrew Jordan, Kathrine Jones, David Jones, Liz Screen

The Socialist Party of Great Britain: Brian Johnson, Richard Cheney, Edward Blewitt, Howard Moss

UK Independence Party: Nathan Gill, James Cole, Caroline Jones, David Rowlands