In this topic, we will explore the European Union Institutional Framework. Three central institutions are the core of the EU: The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
The EU is sustained by an institutional ecosystem: the European Council, the European Central Bank, the European Courts, the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Within the content of this module, we will also cover the European External Action Service (EEAS).
The European Union has a very unique institutional set up, it is neither an international organisation nor a country, but a supranational body where member states share part of their political and economic sovereignty. Therefore, EU institutions are different from institutions that can be found at a national level and it is difficult sometimes to compare.
The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are interdependent institutions during the legislative process. All three play an important role in the decision-making process of the EU.
The European Commission: represents the general interest of the EU by proposing and enforcing legislation as well as by managing policies and the EU budget. The Commission also represents the EU internationally. It is also therefore a fundamental executive body of the EU.
The current President of the European Commission is Ursula Von der Leyen and she defines the policy direction for the Commission. This leadership enables her and her team composed by a “College of Commissioners” (27 commissioners, one per each country) to decide strategic objectives and draft an annual work programme. The different commissioners structure their departments (Directorate-general) responsible for certain policies. This strategic decision-making is a collective process where consensus is the rule but where votes can also take place.
The European Parliament represents the general interests of European citizens. The EU parliament is a directly-elected EU body with legislative, supervisory and budgetary responsibilities.
The President of the European Parliament is elected for a renewable term of two and a half years. The current President is Roberta Metsola.
The 705 Members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) are elected in the 27 member states for a five-year period by proportional representation elections. In the last election, more than a third of MEPs were women. It is worth noting that MEPs are grouped by political affinity, not nationality.
There are currently 7 political groups in the European Parliament (25 MEPs are needed to form a political group):
The MEPs are organised in different committees (there are 20 specialised parliamentary committees) which includes a chair, a bureau and a secretariat. It is important to note that their debates are public meetings (and also streamed online). Sub-committees can also be set up for special issues. The MEPs can join different delegations of the EU Parliament and exchange information with other non EU parliaments.
With the following two videos you will learn how the committees are organised and the functions of the President of the EU Parliament
Explanation of the committees of the EU Parliament (more info, here)
Representing you: the President of the European Parliament (more info, here)
The Council of the European Union (or the Council) represents the general interests of the governments of the 27 member states. Each EU country holds the 6 month presidency (on a rotating basis for all MS). The current presidency is held by the French Government until June 2022.
The Council is an essential co-decision-body together with the EU parliament (on the basis of proposals submitted by the EU Commission). The Council members (different government ministries focused on particular subject areas) organise meetings depending on the policy area discussed.
The Council also has the task of coordinating member states’ policies in different sectors (economy, education, employment, science, etc.) and to develop the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP) together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Finally, the Council is also responsible for adopting, together with the EU Parliament, the EU Budget for each fiscal year.
- Official website of the EU institutions and bodies (Link).
Have a look at the statistical portrait of the EU in the world 2018:
- European Union (2018): The EU in the World. 2018 Edition. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. DOI: 10.2785/990579, (Link).
The material provided under this course is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.