Fabian Demicoli

Europe in 12 lessons Lesson 3: How does the EU work?


The structure of the EU – The
structure of the European Union does not fall into any traditional legal
category. It is historically unique, and its decision-making system has been
constantly evolving for the past 60 years.

The
Treaties are the basis for the regulations, directives and recommendations
which have direct impact on the daily lives of EU citizens. These laws are the
result of decisions taken by the Council (representing national Governments),
the European Parliament (representing the people) and the European Commission (a
body independent of EU Governments that upholds the collective European
interest).

The European Council:

It
is the EU's top political intuition. It consists of the Heads of State or
Government of all the EU member countries, plus the President of the European
Commission. It normally meets four times a year, in Brussels. It has a
permanent President who is elected for a period of two and a half years and can
be re-elected once.

The
European Council fixes the EU's goals and sets the course for achieving them.
It provides the impetus for the EU's main policy initiatives. Besides, it
tackles current international problems via the "common foreign and security
policy".

The Council:

It
is also known as the Council of Ministers and is made up of ministers from the
EU's national governments. The member states take it in turns to hold the
Council Presidency for a six-month period. Every Council meeting is attended by
one minister, depending on the topic on the agenda, from each EU country.

The
Council's main job is to pass EU laws, a responsibility shared with the
Parliament, as is the adoption of the EU budget. The Council has to agree
unanimously on important questions such as taxation, amending the Treaties or
allowing a new country to join the Union. In most other cases, qualified
majority voting is used (if a specified number of votes are cast in favour).

 

The European Parliament (EP):

It
is the elected body that represents the EU's citizens and for which members are
elected every five years. The major debates are held in the monthly Plenary
Sessions in Strasbourg and sometimes even in Brussels. Its main Secretariat is
however based in Luxembourg and Brussels.

The
EP takes part in the legislative work of the EU in two ways:


Via co-decision, which is the ordinary legislative procedure. The EP shares
equal responsibility with the Council for legislating in all policy areas that
require a "qualified majority" vote in the Council.


Via the "assent" procedure, the EP must ratify the EU's international
agreements.

The
EP shares with the Council equal responsibility for adopting the EU Budget
(proposed by the Commission). It can reject the proposed Budget as it has done
on several occasions. The EP can also reject or approve the European Council's
nominee for the post of Commission President. The EP also interviews each
proposed member of the Commission before voting on whether to approve the new
Commission as a whole. The EP also supervises the day-to-day management of EU
policies by putting oral and written questions to the Commission and the
Council.

The European Commission:

The
EC alone has the right to draw up proposals for new EU legislation, which it
sends to the Council and Parliament for discussion and adoption.

The
Commission consists of a Commissioner per member state (27), chosen from among
the leading personalities of the member state. The members are appointed for a
five-year term.

The
EC enjoys a substantial degree of independence in exercising its power. It
represents and defends the interests of the EU as a whole. As "Guardian of the
Treaties", it has to ensure that the regulations and directives adopted by the
Council and Parliament are being implemented in the member states.

The Court of Justice:

It
is located in Luxembourg, is made up of one judge from each EU country,
assisted by eight            advocates-general. The Court's role
is to ensure that Eu law is complied with and that the Treaties are correctly
interpreted and applied.

The European Central Bank

It
is located in Frankfurt and is responsible for managing the euro and the EU's
monetary policy. Its main task is to maintain price stability in the euro area.

The Court of Auditors

It
is located in Luxembourg, was established in 1975. It has one member from each
EU country. It checks that all the European Union's revenue has been received
and all is expenditure incurred in a lawful and regular manner and that the EU
budget has been managed soundly.

The European Economic and Social Committee
(EESC):

The
Council and Commission consult the EESC. Its members represent the various
economic and social interest groups that collectively make up ‘organised civil
society', and are appointed by the Council for a five-year term.

The Committee of the Regions (COR):

The
COR consists of representatives of regional and local government proposed by
the member states and appointed by the Council for a five-year term. The
Council and Commission must consult the CoR on matters of relevance to the
regions, and it may also issue opinions on its own initiative.

The European Investment Bank (EIB):

The
EIB, based in Luxembourg, provides loans and guarantees to help the EU's less
developed regions and to help make businesses more competitive.

 

 

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