2006-12-19

Overview of the European Institutions (Structure)

One useful thing when trying to apply for the European institutions is to know something about them! : )

Here I will try to provide a very general overview of the main institutions and their role in the European Union.

First of all: What is a European Institution? It is difficult to define and you won't find the definition easily. In fact, I never found it! If you do, please post a comment! : )
The only thing I can say is that a European institution is a branch or an organisation taking part in the European Union normal working process. But attention, not all of the organisations corresponding to this definition are European institutions. Nowadays, the main European institutions are the following:

· European Parliament (seat in Strasbourg and Brussels, with offices in Luxembourg, it has 732 deputies and the president is Josep Borrell).

· Council of the European Union (seat in Brussels, it has 25 representatives and the current presidency is held by Finland and from January on by Germany).

· European Commission (seat in Brussels and some offices in Luxembourg, it has 25 commissioners and Durao Barroso is the President).

· European Court of Auditors (seat in Luxembourg, one member of each EU country and a lot of auditors and translators. The president is Hubert Weber).

· Court of Justice of the European Communities (seat in Luxembourg, it has 25 judges and 8 Advocate-Generals. The president is Vassilios Skouris).


Now I will try to explain briefly but clearly (please complain if I don't get to do it!!) how those institutions work and what they do.


European Parliament:
The European Parliament (EP) is elected by the citizens of the European Union to represent their interests, that's it, the same we do in our countries to elect our governments. There are 732 deputies from all the European Union countries, and they belong to different parties. The party with the biggest number of deputies is Christian-Democrats and European Democrats (conservative) followed by the European Socialist Party.
Apart from the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) there are a lot of officials working in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg in many offices, belonging to different services and units, not dependent from the parties.

The European Parliament takes an active role in the European Union legislation process. It means that European laws are approved by the European Parliament in collaboration with the Council of the European Union (in the so-called co-decision process).


Council of the European Union:
The Council is the EU's main decision-making body (more even than the European Parliament). It represents the member states, and its meetings are attended by one minister from each of the EU’s national governments. But which minister? Always the same? No! Which ministers attend which meeting depends on what subjects are on the agenda. If, for example, the Council is to discuss environmental issues, the meeting will be attended by the Environment Minister from each EU country and it will be known as the ‘Environment Council’. It is quiet simple. In those meetings important issues are discussed and a lot of European legislation is approved in collaboration with the European Parliament (co-decision, as I stated before).


European Commission:
The Commission is independent of national governments. Its job is to represent and defend the interests of the EU as a whole. The European Commission write proposals for new European laws (that will be later discussed by the Parliament and the Council to decide if they are approved or not). The Commission is also responsible for implementing the decisions of Parliament and the Council. That means implementing its policies, running its programmes and spending its funds. Not bad! : )


European Court of Auditors:
The Court’s job is to check that EU funds, which come from the taxpayers, are properly collected and that they are spent legally, economically and for the intended purpose. Its aim is to ensure that the taxpayers get maximum value for their money, and it has the right to audit any person or organisation handling EU funds (including the institutions, of course!).


Court of Justice of the European Communities:
Its job is to make sure that EU legislation is interpreted and applied in the same way in all EU countries, so that the law is equal for everyone. It ensures, for example, that national courts do not give different rulings on the same issue. The Court also makes sure that EU member states and institutions do what the law requires. The Court has the power to settle legal disputes between EU member states, EU institutions, businesses and individuals. Everything under control!!!

I hope your vision about the European Union is bit more clear now. Of course, there are a lot of things to learn about the institutions I mentioned and also about those I didn't mention, as well as from other EU bodies and EU-dependent agencies. You can find more information on: europa.eu/institutions/inst/index_en.htm

or just in Wikipedia!

If you post a lot of comments asking for a more detailed information concerning this topic, I will write more about it : )

2 comments:

Kajus said...

Thank you Fernando! Finally I got an understanding of the EU ;D

Kajus said...

If you look at http://europa.eu/institutions/inst/parliament/index_en.htm
you can get further information on the topic. Much success!