EU Institutions

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Key words and concepts

Supranational- A description of a circumstance or institution where national interests are put aside and replaced by the interests of the EU as a whole. Thus, decisions are set to transcend national interests. Examples of supranational institutions include the European Commission and the European Court of Justice. Examples of supranational policy issues are CAP and Environmental Protection.

Intergovernmental- This exists in contrast to supranationalism. It is a situation or institution where it is expected that there will be conflict of various national interests and it’s necessary to reach compromises and consensus. Thus, by nature the Council of Ministers is an intergovernmental body.

Democratic Deficit- A description of a number of problems which are considered to exist within the EU political system. It relates to the belief that there is insufficient democratic spirit within the EU. Specifically it relates to such problems as the lack of accountability of institutions, the lack of effective representation and an inability to engage citizens in European politics in any active way.  

Accountability- The practise by which people are made to take responsibility for the results of their actions.

Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) - A voting system used increasingly by the Council of the European Union whereby 55% members representing at least 65% of Europe’s population must vote in favour of a proposal for it to pass.

Codecision- A process related to the European Parliament (EP) which was established at Maastricht in 1992. It refers to a system where the EP must be consulted on some kinds of legislation and effectively has a veto as can refer the proposals back to the Commission for reconsideration. It gives it equal powers to the Council of Ministers and EP over some legislation.

Cooperation- A process when the European Parliament can only pass its opinion on an incentive and cannot influence the outcome.

Subsidiarity- A principle established by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. It proposes that decisions making in the EU should as far as possible be pushed down to the lowest level. In practice it can be seen as an attack on the power of nation states and support for regionalism in its place.

Concepts that could be used to evaluate the EU

Democracy- Being open to the influence of popular opinion and ensuring decisions are based on it.

Representation- Representing people of the EU. However various political ideas and interests which flourish throughout Europe must be taken into account.

Accountability- Only the European Parliament is elected, large political community and held accountable to own national governments and parliaments. Thus, representatives are not held to the account to the people of Europe as a whole.

Authority and Legitimacy- Low turnout at EU elections. Huge electorates, we don’t know where MEPs stand on many issues. Ministers only carry the authority as representatives of own governments. Thus, authority and legitimacy is not shared, neither do we know how decisions are reached.

Limited Government- No strict limitations to prevent from overstepping power (safeguards).

The European Commission


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