1. What is the Europien Union ? 2
2. How the EU takes decisions ? 3
3. Consultation 3
5. Codecision 4
6. Modenysing the system 4
7. What does the Parliament do ? 6
8. How it the Parliament‘s work organized ? 7
9. How is the Council‘s work organized ? 11
10. What is the commission ? 13
11. Where is the commission based ? 14
12. What does the commision do? 14
13. How is the commission‘s work organized ? 16
14. Limiting the size of commission ? 16
15. What does the court do ? 18
16. How is the courts work organized ? 19
17. What does the court do ? 19
18. What does the EESC do ? 21
19. What does the committee do ? 22
20. How is the committee‘s work organized ? 23
21. How is the Bank‘s work organized ? 25
22. Literature 29
What is the Europien Union ?
The European Union (EU) is not a federation like the United States. Nor is it simply an organisation for co-operation between governments, like the United Nations. It is, in fact, unique. The countries that make up the EU (its ‘member states’) remain independent sovereign nations but they pool their sovereignty in order to gain a strength and world influence none of them could have on their own.
Pooling sovereignty means, in practice, that the member states delegate some of their decision-making powers to shared institutions they have created, so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level.
The EU’s decision-making process in general and the co-decision procedure in particular involve three main institutions:
• the European Parliament (EP), which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them;
• the Council of the European Union, which represents the individual member states;
• the European Commission, which seeks1 to uphold the interests of the Union as a whole.
This ‘institutional triangle’ produces the policies and laws that apply throughout the EU. In principle, it is the Commission that proposes2 new laws, but it is the Parliament and Council that adopt them.
Two other institutions have a vital part to play: the Court of Justice upholds the rule of European law, and the Court of Auditors checks the financing of the Union’s activities.
The powers and responsibilities of these institutions are laid down in the Treaties, which are the foundation3 of everything the EU does. They also lay down the rules and procedures that the EU institutions must follow. The Treaties are agreed by the presidents and/or prime ministers of all the EU countries, and ratified by their parliaments.
In addition to its institutions, the EU has a number of other bodies that play specialised roles:
• the European Economic and Social Committee represents civil society, employers and employees;
• the Committee of the Regions represents regional and local authorities;
• the European Investment Bank finances EU investment projects, and helps small businesses via the European Investment Fund;
• the European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration by EU institutions and bodies;
• the European Data Protection Supervisor safeguards the privacy of people’s personal data;
• the European Central Bank is responsible for European monetary4 policy;
Seek1 – ieškoti
Propose2 – pasiūlyti, pateikti
Foundation3 – pamatas, pagrindas
Monetary4 – piniginis, monetarinis
• the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities publishes information about the EU;
• the European Communities Personnel Selection Office recruits1 staff for the EU institutions and other bodies.
In addition, specialised agencies have been set up to handle certain technical, scientific or management tasks.
How the EU takes decisions ?
Decision-making at European Union level involves various European institutions, in particular2
• the European Commission,
• the European Parliament (EP),
• the Council of the European Union.
In general it is the European Commission that proposes new legislation3, but it is the Council and Parliament that pass the laws. Other institutions and bodies also have roles to play.
The rules and procedures for EU decision-making are laid down in the treaties4. Every proposal for a new European law is based on a specific treaty article, referred to as the ‘legal basis’ of the proposal. This determines5 which legislative procedure must be followed. The three main procedures are ‘consultation’, ‘assent’ and ‘co-decision’.
Under the consultation procedure, the Council consults Parliament as well as the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR).
• approve the Commission proposal,
• reject it,
• or ask for amendments6.
If Parliament asks for amendments, the Commission will consider all the changes Parliament suggests. If it accepts any of these suggestions it will send the Council an amended proposal.
The Council examines the amended proposal and either adopts it or amends it further. In this procedure, as in all others, if the Council amends a Commission proposal it must do so
Recruit1 – naujokas, naujas narys
Particular2 – tam tikras, būtent tas, konkretus
Legislation3 – įstatymų leidimas, įstatymai
Treaty4 – sutartis susitarimas
Determine5 – (nu)lemti, sąlygoti, lemti; determinuoti
Amendment6 – (pa)taisymas; gerinimas
Unanimously7- vieningai, vienbalsiškai
The assent procedure means that the Council has to obtain the European Parliament’s assent before certain very important decisions are taken.
The procedure is the same as in the case of consultation, except that Parliament cannot amend a proposal: it must either accept or reject it. Acceptance (‘assent’) requires an absolute majority of the vote cast.
This is the procedure now used for most EU law-making. In the codecision procedure, Parliament does not merely2 give its opinion: it shares legislative3 power equally with the Council. If Council and Parliament cannot agree on a piece of proposed legislation, it is put before a conciliation4 committee, composed of equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives. Once this committee has reached an agreement, the text is sent once again to Parliament and the Council so that they can finally adopt it as law.
Modernising the system
The EU’s decision-making system has evolved5 over half a century. But it was originally designed for a community of just six nations. The EU now has 25 member states, and its membership will increase further in the years ahead. Its decision-making system therefore needs simplifying and streamlining6. To avoid paralysis, most decisions will have to be taken by ‘qualified majority voting’ rather than requiring every single country to agree.
The proposed Constitution agreed by the European Council in 2004 tackles7 these questions head on. It spells out much more clearly than in previous treaties what the European Union is and where it is going. It also lays down the new rules for more streamlined decision-making. It is due to come into force in 2006, but first it has to be approved by all 25 member countries – in some cases by referendum.
The Constitution is designed to make the EU more open and democratic. For example, it obliges8 EU ministers to hold their law-making discussions in public, and it gives citizens the right to draw up a petition asking the European Commission to propose new laws. Moreover, it gives national parliaments a greater role in monitoring Commission proposals.
Assent1 – pritarimas, sutarimas, sutikimas
Merely2 – paprasčiausiai, tiktai
Legislative3 – įstatymų leidžiamasis/leidimo; įstatyminis
Conciliation4 – su(si)taikymas, sutaikinimas
Evolve5 – plėtotis, vystytis, išsivystyti, evoliucionuoti
Streamline6 – kryptis; tėkmės kryptis; srovės linija
Tackle7 – reikmenys, rykai; įrengimai;
Oblige8 – įpareigoti; priversti
It also aims1 to make the European Union a more effective force on the world stage by creating the post of EU Foreign Affairs Minister and putting that person in charge of all aspects of the Union’s external relations.
The new Constitution maintains the existing balance between national interests and the general European interest, and between the interests of small and big countries.
The European Parliament (EP) is elected by the citizens of the European Union to represent their interests. Its origins go back to the 1950s and the founding treaties, and since 1979 its members have been directly elected by the people they represent.
Elections are held every five years, and every EU citizen who is registered as a voter is entitled to vote. Parliament thus expresses the democratic will of the Union’s citizens (more than 455 million people), and it represents their interests in discussions with the other EU institutions. The present parliament, elected in June 2004, has 732 members from all 25 EU countries. Nearly one third of them (222) are women.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) do not sit in national blocks, but in seven Europe-wide political groups. Between them, they represent all views on European integration, from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Eurosceptic.
In 2004, Josep Borrell Fontelles was elected President of the European Parliament.
TABLE: Number of seats per political group, as at 2 June 2005
Political group Abbreviation2 No. of seats
European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats EPP-ED 268
Socialist Group PES 201
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe ALDE 88
Greens/European Free Alliance Greens/EFA 42
European United Left – Nordic Green Left GUE/NGL 41
Independence/Democracy IND/DEM 36
Union for Europe of the Nations UEN 27
Non-attached NI 29
United Kingdom 78
The European Parliament has three places of work: Brussels (Belgium), Luxembourg and Strasbourg (France).
Luxembourg is home to the administrative offices (the ‘General Secretariat’). Meetings of the whole Parliament, known as ‘plenary sessions’, take place in Strasbourg and sometimes in Brussels. Committee meetings are also held in Brussels.
Aim1 – tikslas, taikinys
Abbreviation2 – sutrumpinimas, santrumpa
What does Parliament do?
Parliament has three main roles:
1. Passing European laws – jointly with the Council in many policy areas. The fact
that the EP is directly elected by the citizens helps guarantee the democratic legitimacy1 of European law.
2. Parliament exercises democratic supervision2 over the other EU institutions, and in particular the Commission. It has the power to approve or reject the nomination of commissioners, and it has the right to censure the Commission as a whole.
3. The power of the purse. Parliament shares with the Council authority over the EU budget and can therefore influence EU spending. At the end of the procedure, it adopts or rejects the budget in its entirety.
These three roles are described in greater detail below.
1. Passing European laws
The most common procedure for adopting (i.e. passing) EU legislation is ‘codecision’. This procedure places the European Parliament and the Council on an equal footing and it applies to legislation in a wide range of fields.
In some fields (for example agriculture, economic policy, visas and immigration), the Council alone legislates, but it has to consult Parliament. In addition, Parliament’s assent is required for certain important decisions, such as allowing new countries to join the EU.
Parliament also provides impetus3 for new legislation by examining the Commission’s annual work programme, considering what new laws would be appropriate and asking the Commission to put forward proposals.
2. Democratic supervision
Parliament exercises democratic supervision over the other European institutions. It does so in several ways.
When a new Commission takes office, its members are nominated by the EU member state governments but they cannot be appointed without Parliament’s approval. Parliament interviews each of them individually, including the prospective Commission President, and then votes on whether to approve the Commission as a whole.
Throughout its term of office, the Commission remains politically accountable4 to Parliament, which can pass a ‘motion of censure’ calling for the Commission’s mass resignation.
Legitimacy1 – teisėtumas, pagrįstumas;
Supervision2 – priežiūra, prižiūrėjimas, stebėjimas; vadovavimas;
Impetus3 – smarkumas, (judėjimo) jėga;
Accountable4 – atsakingas
More generally, Parliament exercises control by regularly examining reports sent to it by the Commission (the annual general report, reports on the implementation1 of the budget, etc.). Moreover, MEPs regularly ask the Commission questions which the commissioners are legally required to answer.
Parliament also monitors the work of the Council: MEPs regularly ask the Council questions, and the President of the Council attends the EP’s plenary sessions and takes part in important debates.
Parliament can exercise further democratic control by examining petitions from citizens and setting up committees of inquiry2.
Finally, Parliament provides input to every EU summit3 (the European Council meetings). At the opening of each summit, the President of Parliament is invited to express Parliament’s views and concerns about topical issues and the items on the European Council’s agenda.
3. The power of the purse
The EU’s annual budget is decided jointly by Parliament and the Council. Parliament debates it in two successive4 readings, and the budget does not come into force until it has been signed by the President of Parliament.
Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (COCOBU) monitors how the budget is spent, and each year Parliament decides whether to approve the Commission’s handling of the budget for the previous financial year. This approval process is technically known as ‘granting a discharge5’.
How is the Parliament’s work organised?
Parliament’s work is divided into two main stages:
• Preparing for the plenary session. This is done by the MEPs in the various parliamentary committees that specialise in particular areas of EU activity. The issues for debate are also discussed by the political groups.
• The plenary session itself. Plenary sessions are normally held in Strasbourg (one week per month) and sometimes in Brussels (two days only). At these sessions, Parliament examines proposed legislation and votes on amendments before coming to a decision on the text as a whole.
Other items on the agenda may include Council or Commission ‘communications’ or questions about what is going on in the European Union or the wider world.
Implementation1 – įgyvendinimas
Inquiry2 – teiravimasis, pasiteiravimas, (pa)klausimas; apklausa, apklausinėjimas
Summit3 – viršūnė, aukščiausias taškas
Successive4 – einantis vienas po kito, sekantis vienas paskui kitą (iš eilės); nuoseklus
Discharge5 – paleidimas, atleidimas, ėjimas, vykdymas
The Council is the EU’s main decision-making body. Like the European Parliament, the Council was set up by the founding treaties in the 1950s. It represents the member states, and its meetings are attended by one minister from each of the EU’s national governments.
Which ministers attend which meeting depends on what subjects are on the agenda. If, for example, the Council is to discuss environmental1 issues, the meeting will be attended by the Environment Minister from each EU country and it will be known as the ‘Environment Council’.
The EU’s relations with the rest of the world are dealt with by
‘General Affairs and External Relations Council’. But this Council configuration also has wider responsibility for general policy issues, so its meetings are attended by whichever Minister or State Secretary each government chooses.
Altogether there are nine different Council configurations:
• General Affairs and External Relations
• Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN)
• Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)
• Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
• Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
• Agriculture and Fisheries
• Education, Youth and Culture
Each minister in the Council is empowered3 to commit his or her government. In other words, the minister’s signature is the signature of the whole government. Moreover, each minister in the Council is answerable to his or her national parliament and to the citizens that parliament represents. This ensures the democratic legitimacy4 of the Council’s decisions.
Up to four times a year the presidents and/or prime ministers of the member states, together with the President of the European Commission, meet as the “European Council”. These ‘summit’ meetings set overall EU policy and resolve issues that could not be settled at a lower level (i.e. by the ministers at normal Council meetings). Given the importance of European Council discussions, they often continue late into the night and attract5 a lot of media attention.
Environmental1 – aplinkos
Competitive2 – konkuruojantis, rungtyniaujantis; konkurencinis
Empower3 – įgalioti, suteikti teisę
Legitimacy4 – teisėtumas, pagrįstumas
Attract5 – patraukti, pritraukti
The Council has six key responsibilities:
1. To pass European laws – jointly with the European Parliament in many policy areas.
2. To co-ordinate the broad economic policies of the member states.
3. To conclude1 international agreements between the EU and other countries or international organisations.
4. To approve the EU’s budget, jointly with the European Parliament.
5. To develop the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), based on guidelines set by the European Council.
6. To co-ordinate co-operation between the national courts and police forces in criminal matters (see the Freedom, security and justice section).
Most of these responsibilities relate to the ‘Community’ domain3 – i.e. areas of action where the member states have decided to pool their sovereignty and delegate decision-making powers to the EU institutions. This domain is the ‘first pillar’ of the European Union. However, the last two responsibilities relate largely to areas in which the member states have not delegated their powers but are simply working together. This is called ‘intergovernmental co-operation’ and it covers the second and third ‘pillars’ of the European Union.
Much EU legislation is adopted jointly by the Council and Parliament
As a rule, the Council only acts on a proposal from the Commission, and the Commission normally has responsibility for ensuring that EU legislation, once adopted, is correctly applied.
2. Co-ordinating the policies of member states