The Structure of the European Union

I. the European Community-at the heart of the EC is the single market with its four basic freedom ( free movement of goods, free movement of workers, freedom to provide services and free movement of capital and payment) and its rules on competition. Policy areas for which the Community is responsible is: international trade, development assistance, monetary policy, agriculture, environment, regional development, energy, culture etc; II. the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) -pillar concerns foreign policy and military matters with the following declared aims:

? safeguarding the commonly held values, fundamental interests and independent of the EU; ? strengthening the security of the EU and its Member States; ? to preserve peace and strengthen international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and the objectives of the Paris Charter, including those on external borders; ? promoting international cooperation; ? promoting democracy and the rule of law, and safeguarding human rights and basic freedoms.

III. Justice and Home Affairs, covering cooperation within the Union in areas such as civil and criminal law, immigration and asylum policy, border control, drug trafficking, police cooperation and exchange of information. The Institutional Framework The three pillars possess a common institutional structure. The European Union institutions are as follows: • European Parliament • European Commission • European Court of Justice (incorporating the Court of First Instance) • Council of the European Union • European Court of Auditors.

• European Data Protection Supervisor • European Ombudsman There are also two advisory committees to the above institutions, which advise them on economic and social (principally relations between workers and employers) and regional issues: • Committee of the Regions • Economic and Social Committee We have also : Financial bodies: ? European Central Bank ? European Investment Bank – European Investment Fund Interinstitutional bodies ? Office for Official Publications of the European Communities ? European Communities Personnel Selection Office.

Decentralised bodies of the European Union (agencies) ? Agencies of the European Community ? Common Foreign and Security Policy ? Police and Judicial Cooperation in criminal matters As for the single institutional framework of the Union, the main EU institutions are as follows: The European Parliament : The European Parliament (EP) is the democratic voice of the peoples of Europe. Directly elected every five years, the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sit not in national blocs but in seven political groups.

Each group reflects the political ideology of the national parties to which its members belong. Some MEPs are not attached to any political group. Sessions sit in Brussels and Strasbourg, with a Secretariat in Luxembourg. Parliament’s principal roles are as follows: ? To examine and adopt European legislation. Under the co-decision procedure, Parliament shares this power equally with the Council of Ministers. ? To approve the EU budget. ? To exercise democratic control over the other EU institutions, possibly by setting up committees of inquiry.

? To assent to important international agreements such as the accession of new EU Member States and trade or association agreements between the EU and other countries. • The Council of the European Union, known as the Council of Ministers, which acts on proposals from the Commission and is the Union’s primary decision-making body. The Council’s role is to define political objectives, coordinate national policies and resolve differences between its members or with other institutions. The Council’s competence extends across all three pillars of the Union.

It is composed of ministers of the governments of the Member States. Ministerial meetings are prepared by the Permanent Representatives of the Member States. • The European Commission embodies and upholds the general interest of the Union and is the driving force in the Union’s institutional system. Its four main roles are to propose legislation to Parliament and the Council, to administer and implement Community policies, to enforce Community law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and to negotiate international agreements, mainly those relating to trade and cooperation.

• The Court of Justice is made up of 25 Judges and 8 Advocates-General. When common rules are decided in the EU, it is of course vital that they are also followed in practice – and that they are understood in the same way everywhere. This is what the Court of Justice of the European Communities ensures. It settles disputes over how the EU treaties and legislation are interpreted. If national courts are in doubt about how to apply EU rules they must ask the Court of Justice.

Individual persons can also bring proceedings against EU institutions before the Court. It consists of one independent judge from each EU country and is located in Luxembourg. • The European Court of Auditors completes the list of the main institutions of the European Union. Its job is to oversee the financial aspects of the Community, to ensure that money is not misspent and to highlight cases of fraud. The Court thus represents the interests of the taxpayer and is located in Luxemburg.

• The European Investment Bank is the European’s Union’s financing institution, which provides loans for capital investment promoting the Union’s economic development. The headquarters is situated Luxembourg. • The Economic and Social Committee (317 members) advises the Parliament, Council and Commission on economic and social activity in the Union, either on its own initiative or at the request of the institutions. • The Committee of the Regions whose seat is in Brussels.

Many decisions taken in the EU have direct implications at the local and regional level. Through the Committee of the Regions, local and regional authorities are consulted before the EU takes decisions in fields such as education, health, employment or transport. The Committee’s 317 members are often leaders of regions or mayors of cities. • The European Ombudsman represents the mechanism which enables victims of any improper administration by EU institutions to have recourse to appeal.