The institutions of the European Union

In the words of John Bruton, former ambassador of the European Union, “This union/alliance between states is the most successful invention appeared in the name of international peace”. However, little is known about its composition, its functioning or even the purpose and the foundation of the EU.

Thus, the EU’s values are human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the human rights. Through these values, the European Union aims to promote peace and the well-being of its citizens, to provide security and justice and to ensure the sustainable development of  its 27 member states.

In any case, how does this union of countries work? Who are the people behind the EU flag and what is the role of the institutions formed within the European Union?

Next, we wlll discuss the 7 EU institutions, their components and their responsibilities.

The European Parliament

This institution has a legislative and budgetary role as well as the Council of the EU. Thus, the Parliament shares with the Council the power to vote and adopt the legislative proposals and the EU budget proposed by the Commission. Also, the Parliament supervises the work of the other European Institutions and analyses the petitions of the EU citizens.

The members of the European Parliament are the only ones in the EU institutions that are democratically elected by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot for a term of five years.

There are 751 parliaments in the European Parliament (each state has at least 6 members and a maximum of 96 members in the Parliament). They are organised in political groups based on their political orientation. The President of the Parliament is chosen from among its members for a mandate of 2 years and 6 months.

In relation to the other institutions:

  • with the European Commission: it elects the President of the European Commission and approves the entire College of Commissioners, it may resort to a motion of censure against the Commission in order to compel it to resign, it can ask questions in order to clarify various situations, it revises the Commission’s work program and makes request for the Comission to propose ideas of legislative acts.
  • with the European Central Bank: it discusses monetary policies.
  • with the Council: it can ask questions to clarify various situations.

The headquarters of the European Parliament are located in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg.

The European Commission

This institution is similar to a Govern (as referred to the national system of institutions), because of its executive role. The Commission implements the policies and the EU budget and protects the interests of the European Union. The Commission has a very important role in the legislative field, because it is the only institution that can propose legislation, as well as budget projects, which will be adopted by the Parliament and the Council. Also, the Commission has the responsibility to ensure that EU law is properly applied in all the member countries, as it is named ‘the guardian of the ‘treaties’.

It is composed of 28 commissioners chosen from among the nationals of the member states. The President of the Commission is proposed by the European Council and validated by the Parliament.

The Council (of the European Union)

Exercises a legislative and budgetary function jointly with the Parliament. Also, the Council represents the governs of the member states, as it is composed of a representative of each member state at ministerial level who may commit the government of the member state in question and cast its vote. Besides the legislative and budgetary functions, the Council coordinates the policies of the EU countries, develops the EU’s foreign and security policy, concludes agreements between the EU and other countries or international organisations.

The Presidency of the Council is ensured by the representatives of the member states on the basis of an equal rotation system. In this way, the presidency of the Council changes at the beginning of each semester. Romania led the presidency of the Council for the first time in January-June 2019.

The headquarter of the Council is located in Brussels.

The Parliament, the Commission and the Council take part in the decisional process at the EU level.

The European Council

This institution has a political function. It represents the highest level of political cooperation between the EU states. The primary role of the European Council is deciding on the EU’s overall direction and political priorities, setting the EU’s common foreign and security policy, nominating and appointing candidates to certain EU roles. The European Council does not have a legislative function, so this institution would not be able to pass, vote or negotiate laws at the EU level.

It is composed of the heads of state or government of the member states, together with its President and the President of the Commission. The members of the European Council meet in summits 4 times a year.

The headquarter of this institution is located in Brussels.

This institution shall not be mistaken with the Europe’s Council (this institution has powers in the area of human’s rights and it is not one of the EU institutions) or with the Council of the EU (which was described at point 3).

The Court of Justice of the European Union

It is composed of the Court of Justice and the General Court and has a judicial function in the EU. In this way, the CJEU ensures the respect of the EU right by the member states, as well as the interpretation and applicability of the EU Treaties. Also, the citizens of the member states can refer to the CJEU when they have suffered damage as a result of action or inaction by an EU institution or its staff. The citizens can take action against them indirectly through national courts or directly before the General Court. The decisions of the CJEU are mandatory and they can not be appealed before any other institution.

The Court of Justice consists of one judge from each member state and it is assisted by Advocates-General. The General Court includes at least one judge per member state. Starting with the first of September 2019, the General Court will be consisted of at least 2 judges from each member state.

It is located in Luxembourg.

The European Central Bank (ECB)

This is the financial-banking institution of the EU and the central bank of 19 countries of the EU which have adopted euro. Also, the ECB collaborates with the other central banks of the member states that have not adopted euro and together with them, they form The European System of the Central Banks. The main atributions of the ECB are supervising the stability of euro, maintaining the payment system, defining and implementing monetary policy and controlling the funds.

It is located in Frankfurt.

The European Court of Auditors

It represents the institution of investigation and audit. This institution, together with the European Commission checks if the EU funds have been spent legally and helps with the improvement of the financial management. Thus, it checks all the people or institutions which manages or administrates European funds and reports the eventual frauds.

The European Court of Auditors verifies that the EU funds are collected and used correctly and helps to improve its financial management. therefore, the Court’s way of working is based on 3 types of audit, as follows:

  • financial audit
  • compliance audit
  • performance audit

It is composed of a representative from each member state and it is located in Luxembourg.

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