The European Union (EU). Four different institutions, many different exertions of influence and one law-making process.
Have you ever wondered how a European law is passed? And what are the tasks and responsibilities of the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union during this process?
The European Council sets the general political direction. However, it does not have the power to pass laws. The European Council‘s meetings are essentially summits, where Heads of State or Government of every EU country meet to decide on broad political priorities and major initiatives.
The actual law-making procedure involves the other three main institutions: the European Parliament, the European Commission and, finally, the Council of the EU. All together, these three bodies produce European policies and laws, through the “Ordinary Legislative Procedure” (ex “co-decision”).
In most cases, the process starts at the Commission. The European Commission is like the European government. It consists of 28 Commissioners, comparable to national ministers, who take care of specific policy areas. Mr Barroso is the current President of the Commission, comparable to a Head of State, and together with his Commissioners, he provides the Commission’s political leadership during its 5-year term.
So the Commission proposes new laws, and then the Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopt them.
The European citizens directly elect the European Parliament every 5 years. As you know, your next opportunity to vote will be in spring 2014!
We, the people of Europe, can then decide which candidates will become Members of the European Parliament, “MEPs” as we call them in Brussels’ jargon.
As mentioned before, their main role is to debate and to pass European laws, in collaboration with the Council of the EU. They also scrutinise other EU institutions, most importantly the Commission; and together with the Council of the EU, the Parliament discusses and adopts the EU budget.
Our institutions showed off their power in the negotiations concerning the EU’s next long-term budget for 2014–2020. Only after months of tough negotiations by the leaders of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the Parliament agreed to pass the final vote in the plenary this autumn.
Last but not least, the Council of the European Union also plays an important role in the law-making procedure. Consisting of the Ministers of the national governments, it gives them the chance to defend their national interest at EU level.
As said earlier, together with the European Parliament, the Council passes EU laws and approves the annual EU budget. It also coordinates the broad economic policies of EU member countries, signs agreements between the EU and other countries, develops the EU’s foreign and defence policies and, finally, coordinates the cooperation between courts and police forces of member countries.
Once a law is passed by the Parliament and the Council of the EU, the Commission and the Member States implement it. It is the job of the Commission to ensure that the laws are properly implemented and respected.
Did you know?: Up to 39% of national legislation is influenced by EU laws!