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Main article: "Member State of the European Union

The competencies of the European Union stem from the original Coal and Steel Community, which had as its goal an integrated market. The original competencies were regulatory in nature, restricted to matters of maintaining a healthy business environment. Rulings were confined to laws covering trade, currency, and competition. Increases in the number of EU competencies result from a process known as functional spillover. Functional spillover resulted in, first, the integration of banking and insurance industries to manage finance and investment. The size of the bureaucracies increased, requiring modifications to the treaty system as the scope of competencies integrated more and more functions. While member states hold their sovereignty inviolate, they remain within a system to which they have delegated the tasks of managing the marketplace. These tasks have expanded to include the competencies of free movement of persons, employment, transportation, and environmental regulation.

Template:EU competencies


Law of the European Union and "Acquis communautaire

Types of Legislation

The Ordinary Legislative Procedure (OLP) is the formal, main legislative procedure. In OLP, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council act in much the same way as a bicameral congress, an example being the British Upper and Lower Houses or the American Congress. The co-decision rule in Maastricht, and the subsequent Lisbon Treaty, is ultimately gave the EP and the Council equal weight and formalised OLP as the main legislative procedure. It also gives the EP veto power. The two legislative powers of the OLP are directives and regulations. A directive requires the member states to pass the new law individually, a process called "transposition." The difference in the timing of completing transposition is the "democratic deficit." A regulation acts on all the member states at once and is effective immediately.

The other legislation option is the Special Legislative Procedure (SLP). The SLP consists of the passing of laws proposed by member states, the Central Bank or Investment Bank, or the Court of Justice. Judicial activism—the interpretation of the spirit of law rather than the letter of law—is handled by the SLP. The procedure is discussed either in the EP with consultation with the Council, or in the Council with participation of the EP. In other words, the consultative role stops short of the equal weight given to both the EP and the Council. While provided for in the treaties, the SLP is not as formal as the OLP, relying less on the hierarchical structure. This lends more credence to Kleine's argument of the contrariness of the EU's agenda-setting procedure.[2]

Mechanics of Legislation

In the OLP, there are four types of rulings: Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and Recommendations. Decision-making is shared by the European Parliament and the Council, which are equally weighted. Regulations are binding on all member states effective immediately. Directives are binding on all member states, but the implementation is left up to the national courts in a process called transposition. However, since member states set their own timelines for transposition, there is a democratic deficit between states. Decisions are binding on non-state litigants to whom they are addressed.[3] Recommendations are intended to guide legal judgments and are non-binding, similar to opinions.

In the SLP, the Council is the sole ruling body. The European Parliament is involved strictly in a consultative role and can be ignored.

Member states[edit]

Member State of the European Union

There are twenty-eight "member states who have conferred powers upon the EU institutions (other countries are "tied to the EU in other ways). In exchange for conferring competencies, EU states are assigned votes in the "Council, "seats in Parliament and a "European Commissioner among other things. The internal government of member states vary between presidential systems, monarchies, federations and "microstates however all members must respect the "Copenhagen criteria of being democratic, respecting human rights and having a "free market economy. Members joined over time, starting with "the original six in 1958 and "more members joining in the near future.

Some member states are outside certain areas of the EU, for example the "eurozone is composed of only 19 of the 28 members and the "Schengen Agreement currently includes only 22 of the EU members. However the majority of these are in the process of joining these blocs. A number of countries outside the EU are involved in certain EU activities such as the euro, Schengen, single market or defence.[4][5][6]


Institutions of the European Union
Organigram of the political system

The primary institutions of the European Union are the "European Commission, the "European Council, the "Council of the European Union (Council) and the "European Parliament.

The "ordinary legislative procedure, applies to nearly all EU policy areas. Under the procedure, the Commission presents a proposal to Parliament and the Council. They then send amendments to the Council which can either adopt the text with those amendments or send back a "common position". That proposal may either be approved or further amendments may be tabled by the Parliament. If the Council does not approve those, then a "Conciliation Committee" is formed. The Committee is composed of the Council members plus an equal number of MEPs who seek to agree a common position. Once a position is agreed, it has to be approved by Parliament again by an "absolute majority.[7][8] There are other special procedures used in sensitive areas which reduce the power of Parliament.


European Parliament

The European Parliament shares the "legislative and budgetary authority of the Union with the Council. Its 766 "members are elected every five years by "universal suffrage and sit according to "political allegiance. It represents all "European Citizens in the EU's legislative process, in contrast to the Council, which represents the Member States. Despite forming one of the "two legislative chambers of the Union, it has weaker powers than the Council in some limited areas, and does not have "legislative initiative. It does, however, have powers over the Commission which the Council does not.[9] The powers of the Parliament have increased substantially over the years, and in nearly all areas it now has equal power to the Council.

European Council[edit]

European Council
The "ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union.

The European Council is the group of "heads of state or "government of the EU "member states. It meets four times a year to define the Union's policy agenda and give impetus to integration. The "President of the European Council, "Donald Tusk, is the person responsible for chairing and driving forward the work of the institution, which has been described as the highest political body of the "European Union.[10]

Council of the European Union[edit]

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (informally known as the Council of Ministers or just the Council) is a body holding legislative and some limited executive powers and is thus the main decision making body of the Union. Its "Presidency rotates between the "states every six months. The Council is composed of twenty-eight national "ministers (one per state). However the Council meets in various forms depending upon the topic. For example, if agriculture is being discussed, the Council will be composed of each national minister for agriculture. They represent their governments and are accountable to their national political systems. Votes are taken either by majority or unanimity with votes allocated according to population.[11]


European Commission

The European Commission is composed of one appointee from each state, currently twenty-eight, but is designed to be independent of national interests. The body is responsible for drafting all "law of the European Union and has a monopoly over "legislative initiative. It also deals with the day-to-day running of the Union and has a duty to uphold the law and "treaties (in this role it is known as the "Guardian of the Treaties").[12]

The Commission is led by a "President who is nominated by the Council (in practice the "European Council) and approved by Parliament. The remaining twenty-seven Commissioners are nominated by member-states, in consultation with the President, and has their portfolios assigned by the President. The Council then adopts this list of nominee-Commissioners. The Council's adoption of the Commission is not an area which requires the decision to be unanimous, their acceptance is arrived at according to the rules for "qualified majority voting. The European Parliament then interviews and casts its vote upon the Commissioners. The interviews of individual nominees are conducted separately, in contrast to Parliament's vote of approval which must be cast on the Commission as a whole without the ability to accept or reject individual Commissioners. Once approval has been obtained from the Parliament the Commissioners can take office.[13] The current president is "Jean-Claude Juncker ("EPP); "his commission was elected in 2014.[12]


Elections in the European Union
Political groups of the European Parliament in the "Louise Weiss building after the "election 2014:
  Group of the European People's Party ("EPP)
  Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats ("S&D)
  Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe ("ALDE)
  European Greens–European Free Alliance ("Greens/EFA)
  European United Left–Nordic Green Left ("GUE/NGL)
  European Conservatives and Reformists ("ECR)
  Europe of Freedom and Democracy ("EFD)
  Non-Inscrits ("NI)

Direct elections take place to the European Parliament every five years. The Council and European Council is composed of nationally elected or appointed officials and thus are accountable according to national procedures. The Commission also isn't direct elected although future appointments of the President must take into account of results of Parliament's elections.

Parliament's elections are held by "universal suffrage of "EU citizens according to national restrictions (such as age and criminal convictions). "Proportional representation is used in all "parliamentary constituencies.[14] "Members of the European Parliament cannot also be elected nationally and are elected in "national or sub-national constituencies. The first such election was of the "in 1979. The latest elections were "in 2014 The turnout has fallen in every EU election since 1979. In 2014, the overall turnout was 42.6%, down from 43.0% in 2009. In Britain the turnout was 35.6% up from 34.7% in 2009, in France and Germany turnout also increased, whereas in Italy and Poland turnout decreased.

Political parties[edit]

European political party and "European Parliament political group

Political parties in the member states organise themselves with like-minded parties in other states into "political parties at European level or "Europarties. Most national parties are a member of one of these "Europarties and there are currently 11 that are recognised and receive EU funding. "Europarties behave and operate to a certain extent like national parties but only the larger ones ("EPP, "PES, "ELDR) put forward comprehensive manifestos during the campaigns for the European elections.

The "Europarties are horizontally present in all the main institutions – Council, Commission, Parliament – but are most active through their "political groups in Parliament. At the beginning of every parliamentary term, most organise themselves with other parties, non-attached national parties or independents to form a "political group. No party has ever held a majority in the Parliament, this does not have a great effect as it does not form a government but there is usual a coalition between the two major parties to elect the "President of the European Parliament.[15][16][17]

Foreign affairs[edit]

Foreign relations of the European Union and "Military of the European Union

The EU's foreign affairs are driven by its "Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and also through the Commission-led economic trade negotiations. The EU's chief diplomat, sometimes dubbed its "foreign minister, is the "High Representative "Federica Mogherini.

Foreign policy is still largely the domain of the member-states however and there has been significant disagreement between members. The failure to present a common voice on the world stage has led to the EU being sidelined in international negotiations.


The "Financial Perspective for 2007–2013 was defined in 2005 when EU members agreed to fix the common budget to 1.045% of the European GDP.[18] UK Prime Minister "Tony Blair agreed to review the "British rebate, negotiated by "Margaret Thatcher in 1984. Former French president "Jacques Chirac declared this increase in the budget will permit Europe to "finance common policies" such as the "Common Agricultural Policy or the "Research and Technological Development Policy. France's demand to lower the "VAT in catering was refused.[19] Controversial issues during budget debates include the British rebate, France's benefits from the Common Agricultural Policy, Germany and the Netherlands' large contributions to the EU budget, reform of the "European Regional Development Funds, and the question of whether the "European Parliament should continue to meet both in "Brussels and "Strasbourg.

The "Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE), commonly referred to as the European Constitution, is an international "treaty intended to create a constitution for the European Union. The constitution was rejected by France and the Netherlands, where referendums were held[20] causing other countries to postpone or halt their "ratification procedures. Late in 2009, a new "Reform Treaty was ratified by all member states of the European Union, and took effect on 1 December 2009.

Enlargement of the Union's membership is a major political issue, with division over how far the bloc should expand. While some see it as a major policy instrument aiding the Union's development, some fear over-stretch and dilution of the Union.[21][22]

"Counter-nationalistic shearing stress" is the term coined by one commentator for the theoretical tendency of certain regions of larger countries of the EU to wish to become fully independent members within the wider context of the European Union's "bigger umbrella". If the Union is to become "ever closer", it follows that regions with their own distinctive histories and identities within the existing member nations may see little reason to have a layer of "insulation" between themselves and the EU. The surprisingly close vote on "Scottish Independence in September 2014 may be seen in this context. Others have suggested that regions of Germany could be candidates for "Euro-Balkanisation", particularly given Germany's commitment to the EU project and to a more nuanced, mature view of the notion of national allegiance.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller: 1928, The Paris Peace Pact (London, G.S. Putnam's Sons) pp. 26-29
  2. ^ Kleine 2009, Memo: Informal Norms in European Governance ( p.1
  3. ^
  4. ^ ECB: Introduction: Euro area
  5. ^ Schengen acquis and its integration into the Union
  6. ^ EU Battlegroups
  7. ^ "Parliament's powers and procedures". "European Parliament. Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  8. ^ "Decision-making in the European Union". "Europa (web portal). Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  9. ^ "Parliament – an overview. Welcome". "European Parliament. Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  10. ^ van Grinsven, Peter (September 2003). "The European Council under Construction" (PDF). Netherlands Institution for international Relations. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  11. ^ "Institutions: The Council of the European Union". "Europa (web portal). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  12. ^ a b "Institutions: The European Commission". "Europa (web portal). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ The European Parliament: electoral procedures
  15. ^ European Parliament
  16. ^ Party Politics in the EU
  17. ^ European Parliament and Supranational party system
  18. ^ "Financial Perspective 2007–2013" (PDF).  (236 "KiB), Council of the European Union, 17 December 2005. Accessed 25 January 2007.
  19. ^ "Poles block EU deal on lower VAT", "Times Online, 31 January 2006. Accessed 24 January 2007.
  20. ^ "Varied reasons behind Dutch 'No'", "BBC News Online, 1 June 2005. Accessed 24 January 2007.
  21. ^ EP Draft report on division of powers
  22. ^ Q&A: EU Enlargement

External links[edit]

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