European Union Institutions


European Parliament

The parliament is a directly elected EU body with legislative, supervisory and budgetary responsibilities that consists of 751 MEPs who are elected by member state citizens every five years. The parliament has three main roles: 

Legislative: Passing EU laws, together with the Council of the EU, based on European Commission agreements via the ordinary legislative procedure.

Supervisory: democratic scrutiny of all EU Institutions, the elect the Commission President, and they examine citizens' petitions and set up inquiries. 

Budgetary: In conjunction with the council they establish the EU budget 

In an evaluation of the parliament, it is argued that its power is somewhat a facade. However since the Treaty of Lisbon 2009 MEPs now have more say in EU law asking. This facade of power generally appears through its lack of power in comparison to national parliaments despite its role of giving democratic legitimacy. Furthermore, it can't propose legislation, it can only discuss and debate on proposed legislation by the commission. Nonetheless, the parliament must offer its agreement for any international treaty the EU want to enter. Finally, the parliament has control over the budget 

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European Commission

The executive element of the EU that promotes general interest through the proposal and enforcement of legislation as well as the implementation of policies and EU budget. This political body consists of a College of Commissioners, one from each member state.

The Commission independently proposes laws to the Parliament and Council that aim to protect the interests of the EU and its citizens regarding issues that cannot be sufficiently solved at a national level. It manages EU policies and allocates EU funding by establishing spending policies alongside the Council and Parliament. It establishes annual budgets that need approval by the Parliament and Council and finally it supervises how the money is spent under the scrutiny of the Court of Auditors. Additionally, alongside the Court of Justice, it ensures that EU is properly applied in all member states. If EU member states do not comply with their obligation then the Commission can take action against them at the CJEU. 

As the politically independent executive arm, it is arguably the most powerful EU body with many responsibilities ranging from natures of legislative, executive and supervisory. However, it is criticised for its lack of democracy in its composition. The commissioners are not elected.

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Council of the European Union

The council is the voice of the EU member governments, adopting EU laws and coordination EU policies. The composition of the council involves government ministers from each EU country, depending on the policy area to be discussed. These ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings. 

In conjunction with the European Parliament, the council is the main decision-making body of the EU. With the Parliament, it works to negotiate and adopt EU laws that have been proposed by the European Commission. It is responsible for coordinating EU countries' policies, this power is given under Article 288 TFEU which allows the issuing of regulations, directives and decisions. 

The majority of decision-making stays with elected ministers making the whole process democratic and its presence balances the interests of the member states. However, the decisions it makes are negotiated in secret which diminishes democracy, also making it more difficult to monitor changes being made. Additionally, the qualified majority voting makes smaller member states' opinions basically redundant so decisions can be forced upon countries.

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Court of Justice of the European Union

The function of the European Court is outlined in Article 19 TFEU, it ensures the law is interpreted and applied the same in every EU country; ensuring countries and EU institutions abide by EU law. Under Article 253 TFEU one judge from each member state is appointed in addition to 11 Advocates General. The Court of Justice interprets EU law to make sure it is implemented the same way in every EU country while settling legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions. The ECJ can give preliminary rulings on the interpretation of EU law. If a national court

The ECJ can give preliminary rulings on the interpretation of EU law under Article 267 TFEU. If a national court is in doubt about the interpretation of validity of an EU law then the ECJ can provide clarification. Furthermore, the ECJ can also determine whether a national law is compatible with an EU law. Infringement proceeding incurs when a case is taken against a national government for failing to comply with EU law. The ECJ can also take actions for annulment if an EU Act is believed to violate EU treaties or fundamental rights. 

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