The European Council is the highest political steering committee of the EU. It is composed of the heads of state or government of the member states, the President of the European Commission, and its own President. The European Council defines the general political priorities of the EU and provides important momentum for its development. It also decides on the foreign policy positions of the EU. The European Council has had a permanent President since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. The President does not hold any other political office: his or her task is to ensure the continuity of the work of the European Council, which meets at least four times annually.
Council of the European Union
SinceThe Council of the European Union – also known as the Council of Ministers or the Council – is the central legislative and decision-making body of the EU. The Council adopts new EU legislation, usually together with the Parliament, and concludes international agreements on behalf of the EU. The members of the Council of Ministers are ministers of the member states but not fixed as such: each country sends the minister for the policy being discussed (i.e. the agricultural minister on agricultural issues). The presidency of the Council is rotated every six months among member states. Most decisions are taken by a qualified majority (ordinary legislative procedure). The Council of Ministers adopts the general annual budget jointly with the European Parliament.
Since 1979 the citizens of the EU member states have directly elected their representatives to the European Parliament for a five-year term. It is a professional parliament with of a total of 751 members elected across the 28 member states of the enlarged European Union. The Parliament meets in its entirety one week per month in Strasbourg and three weeks per month in Brussels. The seating arrangement in the hall is based on party affiliation, not nationality. The European Parliament was given significantly more power under the Treaty of Lisbon, for instance it was recently delegated the authority to approve EU agree-ments with third countries. The Parliament shares decision-making authority with the Council of Ministers with regard to the creation of new EU law and the adoption of the general budget. The Council of Ministers is a controlling organ in that it approves or rejects the appointment of the Commission as a whole, and has the power to force the Commission as a body to resign.
The European Commission is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EU. It has the sole right to formally propose new EU legislation, but it is the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers that jointly adopt it. The European Commission manages common EU policies, for instance, in the areas of agriculture and regional politics. It also monitors member states’ compliance with EU law and the budget. The President of the European Commission is chosen by the governments of member states, while the other commissioners are designated by their respective national governments and confirmed in consultation with the European Commission President. The European Parliament approves the choice of EC commissioners and President as a collegium.
Court of Justice of the European Union
The Court of Justice of the European Union, CJEU (formerly known as the European Court), was re-named under the Treaty of Lisbon. Based in Luxembourg, it is the highest judicial authority of the EU. The Court is responsible for ensuring that EU legislation and treaties are uniformly interpreted and applied. The CJEU consists primarily of the Court (28 judges and 8 advocates-general) and the Court of First Instance (28 judges). The judges and advocates-general are appointed by the governments of the member states for six-year terms.
European Court of Auditors
The European Court of Auditors has its seat in Luxembourg and is responsible for auditing the revenues and expenditures of EU institutions. It checks for sound financial management and assists the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament with budgetary and accounting matters.
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank (ECB), headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, is responsible for the monetary policy of the Economic and Monetary Union, the euro area. The aim of ECB policy is to maintain price stability within the euro area, to support economic growth and thereby to secure jobs. The ECB is managed by an executive board composed of six members who are elected for a term of eight years. The members may not be re-elected. The executive board is supported by a governing council and a general council.