The EP's budgetary powers have also been limited and confined mainly to small non-compulsory expenditure; it would like the last word on the vast amount of compulsory expenditure which takes place mainly in agriculture e. g. CAP. It is the institutional weaknesses of the Parliament in relation in relation to the changing composition, and some of its activities have occurred outside the EU framework in the past; for example, the European Political Co-operation (POCO). The EP has been locked into a vicious circle in which it has failed to command popular support because it has lacked powers to match those of national parliaments.
This has resulted in citizens focusing their main allegiance and expectations on the latter. One attempt to tackle the EP's remoteness from Community citizens has been to encourage those with grievances to appeal to its Committee on petitions. The Economic and Social Committee (ESC) is marginal to the main decision making process, though it has an influence on some policy details. The ESC consists of 189 representatives of interest groups in the member states. It parallels the national systems for institutionalising interest group participation.
The ESC under the Treaties has to be consulted compulsorily on many issues: agriculture, freedom of movement of workers, right of establishment, transport, approximation of laws, social policy and funding, and vocational training. The ESC has also had to be consulted on other areas where this has been appropriate; for example, regional, environmental and consumer policy. The ESC consists of three groups: employers, workers and various other interest groups – representatives of agriculture, transport, trade, small enterprises. The ESC's functions consultative and its influence has tended to be eroded by the elected EP.
The influence has also been diluted by the growth of the independent interest groups themselves. If the ESC is to be of influence it has to have well produced recommendations, but on some economic and social affairs each group has used the Committee as a platform for its own views, though on other issues such as a platform for its own views, though on the rises such as safety standards the three sides have been much more in agreement. The Committee is an unelected body like the Commission and it has seen the latter as its ally, needing to prevent the overlap and duplication of the ESC with the stronger elected EP.
The consensus among the members is difficult, so the ESC is divided into nine sections representing key areas. If the Commission asks for an opinion it is sent to one of these sections. Each member of the ESC sits on two or three sections. A small study group is then set up, representative, as far as possible, of the three interest groups and member states. The study group elects a reporter and listens to the members, and where a very technical issue is concerned, such as nuclear power stations, then there is also a resort to outside expertise.
The Court of Justice is the last of the main institutions. The Court of Justice sits in Luxembourg and its structure comprises thirteen judges who are appointed for a period of six years, with provision for reappointment. While the judges come from member states they are expected to be independent of the pressure of national governments. This is facilitated by judgements emanating from the Court instead of from individual judges; hence governments do not know if any particular judge has supported its view or not. The judges are assisted by six advocates-generals, appointed from the member states.
The Court is supranational and its main function has been to ensure that in the member states Union law is applied, with the treaties being understood and implemented correctly. Where a citizen goes to the national court and the latter is in doubt about matters, it can refer to the European Court for clarification. Given that the EU's prime concern is with economic integration, the Court has been occupied very much in ensuring that key economic objectives are carried out; for example free trade, where the court has ruled against different types of projectionist measures.
In addition, the Court has been active in tackling practices by businesses which are contrary to Competitionon Policy. The Court has resolved cases of infringement of the Treaty which have been referred to it. Member states have preferred not to bring proceedings against other member states, leaving it to the Commission to do so. The Court has also, among other things, ruled both on the actions and on the failures to act properly of Community institutions.
Even the EP has gone to the court claiming that the Council has breached its obligations under the Treaty to introduce a common transport policy. The Court is sovereign, overruling national courts, but the latter apply the law. The European Court itself has no EU or police force. The Court of Justice is very active and has dealt with over 6000 cases since first taking up their duties in 1953. It has a growing workload and to relieve this the SEA has provided for the establishment of an additional European Court of First Instance.