The primary law of European Union comes from founding treaties and subsequent amendments. This is the very basis of EU law and has direct impact on the lives of EU citizens. Primary laws are created by direct negotiations between governments of member states.
Secondary laws have roots in primary law and are made to implement the treaties in different forms. The forms are explained in “Norms of the secondary legislation” –section. Supplementary law Supplementary law consists of case law and international law mainly to fill the gaps left by primary and secondary law. The public international law and general principles are used as a basis for Court of Justice’s case law.
Interrelationship between primary legislation and secondary legislation
Primary legislation consists of the ground rules set for the European Union called treaties. Secondary legislations means regulations, directives and decisions that are made to implement primary legislations in practice.
Norms of the secondary legislation
Secondary legislations are divided into four different norms. Regulations Regulations are in effect immediately and bind all member countries without a need for national implementations.
Directives Directives are more like goals or objectives that members need to meet in certain time limit. Members of EU still have freedom to choose means how to implement directives into national legislation in order to meet the objectives. Decisions
Decisions are more precise legislations that bind only those who are addressed. The target might be one member, all members, an enterprise or an individual. Recommendations and opinions These are literally only recommends are opinions and thou not binding,
The law-making triangle of the EU and their roles
Laws in European Union are created in the collaboration of three different institutions.
The Council of European Union The council is the main body which makes decisions in EU. There are 6 month periods where different member states hold the Presidency of the Council. All Council meetings have an agenda and one minister will attend from each country with appropriate role according to that agenda (e.g. foreign affairs or agriculture). There are three ways the Council can make binding decision depending on the importance of the subject: A simple majority vote, qualified majority vote or unanimously. Simple majority means over 50% of the votes. Qualified majority, which is mostly used, means 255 votes of 345 (as of 17.4.2012) is required, and in addition, majority of member states needs to approve the decision. Unanimously voting is needed in very important matters such as amending the Treaties.
The European Parliament The European Parliament represents EU citizens. Every 5 years over 700 members are elected from 27 member states. The parliament has nowadays legislative power together with the Council. Since Lisbon Treaty what was before regarded as exception in decision making is now changed to “ordinary legislative procedure”. The Parliament has 20 different committees to prepare all matters ready for the plenary sessions hold in either Strasbourg or Brussels. The Parliament’s role is to supervise the European Union, including the Commission.
The European Commission The third part of the triangle refers to the Commission. The parliament has power to dismiss the Commission by adopting motion of censure in which case the whole Commission has to resign. The commission’s role is to manage and run the European Union by acting as an executive arm and as a “Guardian of the Treaties”. It takes Council’s decisions and implements them in areas such as agricultural or technological policy.
The difference between The Council of Europe and The Council of the European Union
The Council of Europe is an organization, which focuses on co-operation between all countries in Europe, concerning legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation. It was founded in 1949 and has 47 member states with 800 million citizens. The best known bodies of the Council of Europe are the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces human rights, and the European Pharmacopoeia Commission, which sets quality standards for pharmaceutical products.
The Council of the European Union represents the governments of the individual member countries of the European Union, and it is also known as the EU Council. This council is one of the three institutions, which is involved in EU legislation. The Council of the European Union is where national ministers from each EU country meet to pass EU laws, coordinate economic policies, sign international agreements and approve the EU budget. The difference between these two institutions is that the Council of Europe has no legislative power and it is not a body of the European Union. Four examples about the conventions in the public international law
a) Geneva Conventions The Geneva Conventions consists of four treaties, which concern international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war. These conventions were negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War.
b) Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VLCT) VCLT was made to define treaties, which are the basis for international law. It says that a treaty is “an international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed by international law,” and that “every state possesses the capacity to conclude treaties.” The Vienna Convention is limited to treaties between states and doesn’t cover agreements between organizations.
c) Hague Conventions The Hague Conventions were two international peace treaties negotiated at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference was in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference was in 1907. As Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions were one of the first statements concerning laws of war and war crimes.
d) Genocide Convention The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was formed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It defines genocide in legal terms, and all participating countries are advised to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and in peacetime.