EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS - REAL AND SYMBOLIC INSTITUTIONS
INSTITUTIONS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
Didier BERTIN - April 4, 2011
Institutions tailored for member States guarding their prerogatives
I-The Council of the European Union
First Institution after the “European Council”, the latter representing the member States through their highest level: Heads of State or Heads of State Government
It has more power than the European Parliament since, it must approve all laws and regulations and the whole budget while the scope of the Parliament is restricted regarding laws and Budget.
It represents the member states, and its meetings are attended by one minister from each of the member States selected according to the agenda. The Council acts only on proposals from the Commission.
Its role is essential as regards the reality of the European policy.
The Council has legislative and budgetary powers.
Decisions in the Council are taken by vote. The bigger the country’s population is, the more votes it has, but the numbers are weighted in favor of the less populous countries. Decisions are taken in three modes of voting: unanimity, simple majority, qualified majority (majority of member States together with a threshold of 73.9% of votes weighted according to populations).
It passes European laws jointly with the European Parliament in certain fields.
It coordinates the broad economic policies of the Member States.
It approves the applications of the budget with the Parliament but approves alone its whole aspect.
It concludes on behalf of the European Union, international agreements with other States or international organizations.
It takes the necessary steps to develop the Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union based on guidelines set by the European Council.
II-The European Commission
The European Union's executive body
The European Commission is independent of the member States. It is the executive power of the European Union in the framework of laws, regulations and Treaties.
The European Commission
-Proposes legislation to the Council and to the Parliament when this is required; The Commission has the right of initiative i.e. it is alone authorized to draw up proposals for European legislation
-Manages and implements the European policy and budget
-Enforces the European law and acts as guardian of the Treaties. This means that the Commission, together with the Court of Justice if necessary, is responsible of the application of the European law in all the member States.
-Represents the European Union on the international stage.
There is one Commissioner per Member State i.e. currently 27 commissioners, including one president and 7 vice presidents. The Commission may be censored by the Parliament compelling the commissioners resign.
III-The European Parliament
The Ceremonial aspect of Europe
The European Parliament is assumed to be an important European Institution since it is elected by the citizens of the European Union but seems to suffer of a lack of substance. The massive abstention is probably due to its unclear power and then influence on the effective life of the citizens.
Despite a high operating cost, its role remains mainly in ceremonial and advisory scopes. The effort of member States to improve the role of the Parliament is limited by their wish to keep intact their prerogatives.
The Parliament has three main roles:
1-Passing European laws – jointly with the Council in certain fields. Laws regarding important fields as Economy, Agriculture, Immigration….are only voted by the Council with no need of the Parliament.
2-Approval of the Commission members whose candidature is introduced by the member States. The Parliament may censure the Commission as a whole.
3-The Parliament shares with the Council authority over the budget regarding the application of resources. The approval of the Budget as a whole is in the competence of the Council.
Parliament may also provide suggestions for new legislation, may sign symbolic declarations and take into consideration the petitions from citizens.
The Treaty of Lisbon of 2009 limits to 751, the members of the European Parliament from 2014 (750 members plus a President). No State may have less than six seats or more than 96 seats. The four biggest States will have from 2014, 96 seats for Germany (currently 99), France 74, the United Kingdom and Italy 73 each.