Disclaimer: This essay has been written by a law student and not by our expert law writers. View examples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of LawTeacher.net. You should not treat any information in this essay as being authoritative.

Overview of the EU Institutions

Info: 4223 words (17 pages) Law Essay
Published: 9th Jul 2019

Reference this

Jurisdiction(s): EU Law

The legal and political basis of the institutions

2. Some general observations on EU Institutions

The three main decision-making institutions are:

The European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them;

The Council of the European Union, which represents the individual member states;

The European Commission, which seeks to uphold the interests of the Union as a whole.

The EU is an open ended process- we don’t really know where it’s headed. The institutions have been thereby been changing all the time with treaties. They were created to govern specific sectors concerning European affairs.

The biggest challenge was to find a way how Malta as such a small country can participate in the Council in Ministers. Also Maltese participation in most of the meetings was a problem due to the regularity of such meeting. Attending all the meeting would have meant a drain on resources as well as a drain on the official’s time. Thus a representational “embassy” was created hence enabling Malta to participate more effectively.

When it comes to decision-making and law making in the EU, they must first pass through all three institutions, namely the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.

There two types of law: Directives and Regulations:

A Regulation is immediately effective on a stipulated date and and infringement is punishable by the EU itself.

A Directive is a law which is passed on to a member’s government, which must pass the directive on as a local, national law. An advantage of this is having a briefing period to implement the new EU directive. Thus the member state has a longer time to adapt itself to the directive. All directives however, MUST be implemented by all member states.

ESC (Economic and Social Committee): made up of representatives of employers, employees and representatives of civil society.

European Central Bank: Stands outside all other institutions and works outside out of the mainframe of the main institutions.

The Court of Justice upholds the rule of European law.

The Court if Auditors checks the financing of the Union’s activities.

Five other bodies complete the system:

The Economic and Social Committee represents civil society and the twp side of the industry.

The Committee of the Regions represents regional and local authorities;

The European Central Bank is responsible for European monetary policy

The European Investment Bank finances EU investment projects

The European Ombudsman guards EU citizens and organizations against maladministration.

3. The Treaties

The EU is founded on four treaties:

The Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was signed on 18th April 1951 in Paris, came into force on 23rd July 1952 and expired on 23rd July 2002.

The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) which was signed on 25th March 1957 in Rome and came into force on 1st January 1958.

The Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), which was signed in Rome along with the EEC treaty. These two treaties are often referred to as the treaties of Rome. When the term treaty of Rome is used, only the EEC treaty is meant.

The Treaty on European Union which was signed in Maastricht on 7th February 1992, and came into force on 1st November 1993. (the “Inter-governmental conference” or IGC)

Amendments on accession

The treaties have been amended to reform the EU institutions and give them new areas of responsibility.

The Single European Act (SEA) was signed in February 1986 and came into force on 1st July 1987. It amended the EEC treaty and paved the way for completing the single market.

The treaty of Amsterdam was signed on the 2nd October 1997. It came into force on 1st May 1999. It amended the EU and EC treaties, giving numbers instead of letters to the EU treaty articles.

The Treaty of Nice. Signed on the 26th February 2001. It entered into force on 1st February 2003.

4. Key Issues and Decision Making

Differentiating the institutions:

The European Council

Council of the European Union

The Council of Europe

The evolving nature of the EU institutions: The three pillars

EU decision making.

There are three main procedures for enacting EU laws:




5. What Is The Importance of Studying Institutions?

The institutions are young; experimental and can change.

The institutions are important because they are the systems through which member states must work.

The institutions provide political direction to the EU.

The institutions play a prominent international role.

The institutions do not stand in isolation and can only be completely understood in relation to the interaction amongst themselves.

It is also important to realise that the institutions do not work perfectly.

Lecture 2: The European Council

Rules and procedures of Council of Ministers do not apply to the European Council. It is not a Community institution.

1. Origin of Council

Establishment of regular meeting Paris December 1974.

The objective was to “ensure progress and overall consistency”

First European Council meeting Dublin, March 1975

French support for the Council

Benelux suspicion and influence of Monnet

Council as Kamingesprächen

2. Legal Nature of Council

It survived for 12 years without being legally constituted.

The Single European Act describes the composition of the European Council, but it intentionally avoids defining its powers.

These derive from the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam and, quite significantly, from practice.

Council is important because it has;

Authority (ultimate decision-makers making a type of soft law)


Unequal relationships (power is everything and small states are less influential)


Ambivalence (lack of formal role gives wide scope for dealing with anything)

3. Composition

Head of State or government or MFA

President of the commission, Council, Secretary General of Council

Two delegates per delegation (red badge)

A system of three note takers links proceedings to the outside

The Antici group (assistants to the permanent representatives in the red zone)

Delegation in the blue zone

The preparation of a European Council is largely in the hands of the presidency.


Opens with the address from the EP president

Evening communiqué (presidency, council secretariat, commission)

Communique forms discussion of second day

Next day president of Council and Commission president brief EP.

4. Functions

The key functions are:

Developing strategic guidelines and political impetus

Making policy decisions in the traditional Community fields

Shaping a collective foreign policy

Taking intergovernmental decisions outside the treaty framework

Pursuing the open method of coordination

Amending the Treaties.

5. An Evolving Council with Strengths and Weaknesses

Specialized meetings of the European Council have evolved:

Informal meetings

Thematic meetings

Emergency meetings

6. Constitutional Treaty

The Constitutional Treaty establishes;

A permanent President of the European Council, elected by qualified majority

Two and a half year, renewable term

He/She will chair the European Council and drive forward its work

The President will also ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning common foreign and security policy.

Lecture 3: The Council of Ministers and Coreper

1. Introduction

Created specifically to guard the interests of the member states

Council beefed up by the EEC treaty

Council membership shifts with policy shift

2. Council configurations;

General Affairs and External Relations

Economic and Financial Affairs (“ECOFIN”)

Justice and Home Affairs

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research)

Transport, Telecommunications, and Energy

Agriculture and Fisheries


Education, Youth and Culture

Nevertheless, the Council remains one single institution.

What does the Council do?

The Council has six key responsibilities:

To pass European laws. In many fields it legislates jointly with the European Parliament.

To co-ordinate the broad economic policies of the member states.

To conclude international agreements between the EU and one or more states or international organisations.

To approve the EU’s budget , jointly with the European Parliament.

To develop the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy

To co-ordinate co-operation between National Courts and Police forces in criminal matters.

How is the Council’s work organised?


The Special Committee for Agriculture is such a body that falls outside Coreper.

5. The Council Presidency

The presidency must:

Arranging and chairing most council meetings, giving it some control over how council bodies meet, their agenda and what happens during those meetings.

Building consensus and getting things approved

Ensuring continuity and consistency in policy, especially policies that preceded the presidency (less important considering the new annual operating plan).

Representing the council in dealing with outside bodies, especially the European Parliament

6. The General Secretariat

General Secretariat prepares and ensures the smooth functioning of the Council’s work at all levels.

The Secretary-General is assisted by a Deputy Secretary General in charge of managing of the General Secretariat.

Network of the committees and working groups:

QMV (Qualified Majority Vote)


Simple Majority Voting

7. The Political Dynamics of the Council

Various factors can determine the adoption of a draft by the council. These can include:

Urgency of proposal.

Controversiality of the proposal and support from the member states.

The original text and the Commission’s attempt to accommodate national concerns at the pre-proposal stage.

The complexity of the draft.

The competence of the presidency.

The willingness of the states to use QMV.

8. Major Changes advocated under the new constitution


Council President

EU Foreign Minister

Lecture 4: The Commission

1. Introduction

The Commission started out as the High Authority of the ECSC with Jean Monnet as its president.

From 1958 until 1967 the Commission had one leader, Walter Hallstein.

By 1995 Delors was out but he had helped steer the SEA*, IGCs on political and economic union and help building the commission profile.

Santer and the low point of the Commission.

Resignation of Commission in 1999.

*SEA: Single European Act in 1992 which gave rise to the single market within the Union.

2. Structure and Key Features

The College of Commissioners

Electing a College

The president of the commission;

Is the principal commission representative when meeting to deal with other EU institutions.

Allocates Commission portfolios.

Can oblige a commissioner to resign with the approval of the college.

The Commission remains politically answerable to the Parliament Commission base.

3. Function of the Commission

The European Commission has four main roles:

Proposing new legislation

(including consultation ESC and CoR, NGOs)

Power mitigated to call for papers.

Implementing EU policies and the budget

Actual work and spending is done by national and local authorities.

Important Role of the Court of Auditors`

Enforcing European Law

“infringement procedure”

Court of Justice

Representing the EU on the international stage

4. The Commissioner’s Working Method

College of Commissioners


Directorate General


Vote in the College

5. The political dynamics within the Commission

National bias


Administrative Culture

Competition for resources

6. Constitutional Amendments

April 2004 – 20 Commissioners

May 2004 – 25 Commissioners

Post 2007 – no more than 27 (rotation system)

Lecture 5: The European Parliament

1. The Evolutionary nature of the European Parliament

ECSC treaty (monitoring the High Authority and dismissal it with a two-thirds majority)

EEC treaty (work as an advisory institution)

1970s rights over the budget (own resources debate)

1980 Court of Justice ruling on consultation

1992 programme and need for greater cooperation

Amsterdam and the power to approve the president

2. The European Parliament Structure

The European Parliament works in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

There are 732 members.

3. The parties within the European Parliament

Establishing a group:

14 members from 5 different countries

23 members if coming from 2

Advantages of joining a group (research required)

European People’s Party and European Democrats

Party of European Socialists

Liberal, Democratic and Reform Parties

Greens/European Free Alliance (Left-wing neutral)

The President of the EP (Josep Borrell Fontelles)

The Bureau is the president in addition to the 14 vice-presidents

Conference of presidents is composed of the EP president and the chairman of the political groups

The Committees

4. The decision-making process within the European Parliament

Preparation stage for the plenary session

The plenary session itself

5. Parliament’s Function

1. The power to legislate

2. Institutional supervision

When a new Commission is to be appointed

The Commission is politically answerable to Parliament

Examining reports sent to it by the Commission

Monitors the work of the Council

Exercise democratic control by examining petitions form citizens a

Input to every EU summit

3. Control over the budget

6. Political dynamics within Parliament

Lack of full legislative power similar to national parliaments

Low turnout

The role of the EP is more opaque than national parliaments

Closely linked to this is the absence of transnational, European media

The results of the elections do not have an effect on the composition of the European Commission or the Council of Ministers

The European parties are extensions of their national parties

The issue of a European identity

Party groups often cover very broad ideology

Constitutional Changes

Maximum and minimum number of seats (750)

The introduction of the “ordinary legislative procedure”

Simplified budgetary procedure

Lecture 6: The European Court of Justice


The Court of Justice of the European Communities was set up in 1952

Location in Luxembourg

Separate from the institutions


The Court of Justice is made up of 25 judges and 8 Advocates-General

The Judges and Advocates-General are appointed by common accord

The Judges select one of their number to be President

Plenary sessions and chambers

The Court of Justice may sit as a full Court, in a Grand Chamber (13 Judges) or in chambers of 5 Judges.

The Court sits as a full Court in the very exceptional cases

The quorum for the Court is 15

Research: Van Gend en Loos, Frankovich cases


“Court of First Instance” was created in 1989

“juridical panels” (EU Civil Service Tribunal)

The Functioning of the Court in undertaking these functions

Two stage procedure: first a written and then an oral phase.

Judgments of the Court are decided by a majority and pronounced at a public hearing. Dissenting opinions are not expressed.

The Court’s functions

The Court gives rulings on cases brought before it. The four most common types of case are:

Requests for a preliminary ruling

Proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation

Proceedings for annulment

Proceedings for failure to act.

Constitutional Changes

The supreme body will be called the “Court of Justice”

Court of First Instance will be renamed “General Court”

Setting up of a panel to give an opinion on candidates’ suitability

Constitution should make it easier for citizens to challenge the Union’s regulatory acts under which penalties are imposed.

Lecture 9: The European Central Bank

1st January 2002 – 12 EUmembers adopt single currency

The European Central Bank was set up in 1998

Framing and implementing the EU’s economic and monetary policy

To introduce and manage this new currency

Conduct foreign exchange operations

Ensure the smooth operaion of the payment systems

Situated in Frankfurt

Reasons for a single currency

Economic reasons:

Greater internal trade

Transaction costs minimised

Single market needs single currency

Counter arguments:

Peripheral areas may suffer through lack of fiscal remedies

Political arguments:

Greater European identity

Pre-cursor to political union

Increases economic confidence

Historical Development

1969: The Hague Summit

The Economic crisis of the 1970s

Deloris report

Maastricht (three state developemtn of the Euro)

Low and convergent inflation rates

Budget deficit of 3% of GDP

Public debt levels of 60%

Stable exchange rate

European System of Central Banks (ESCB)

Euro Area and ‘Eurosystem’ (ECB and 12 Euro countries)

ECB independence

Its Organizational Structure

The Executive Board (President of the ECB, the Vice-President and four other members)

Implementing monetary policy

Prepeares the Governing Council meetings

Day-to-day management of the ECB

The Governing Council (Executive Board, governors of euro zone)

To adopt the guidelines and take the decisions necessary to ensure the performance of the tasks entrusted to the Eurosystem;

To formulate monetary policy for the euro area. This includes decisions relating to monetary objectives, key interest rates, the supply of reserves in the Eurosystem, and the establishment of guidelines for implementation of those decisions.

The General Council (ECB’s President and the Vice-President, all governors)

Transitional body (Carries out the tasks taken over from the EMI)

Its Main Tasks

The definition and implementation of monetary policy for the euro area

The conduct of foreign exchange operations

The holding and management of the official foreign reserves if the euro area countries (portfolio management)

The promotion of the smooth operation of payment system



Lecture 10: The European Court of Auditors

The Court of Auditors has three main functions:

To ensure the revenue that the European Union is entitled to is collected

Regulates and audits the money spent by the European Union, manages the transactions that comes into the EU and out of the EU in a legal way.

Ensure proper management of the EU budget, money spent in a prudent way.

It is exceptionally important because fraud is considered to be the main reason for euro-scepticism. The Santee Commission, for example, was brought down on issues of fraud. The Court of Auditors was created to overcome the allegations of fraud, but actually added to the problem of fraud, since it put a lot of focus onto the

In 1975 there was the signing of the Budge3t Treaty, whereby the EU had its own resources guaranteed. Because countries like Holland weren’t keen on their resources being controlled by other member states, they created the Parliament.

The budget is drafted by the parliament, but for it to become enforceable it has to be signed by the Parliament.

Maastricht made the Court of Auditors the status of an EU institution.

Lecture 11: The Economic and Social Committee

Created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957

Consulting the Committee enables the Community’s decision-making bodies to gain a better idea of:

The impact Commission proposals are likely to have on those most directly concerned

What changes may be necessary to enlist wider support.

In addition the Committee also makes known its views.

September 2001 a cooperation agreement was signed with the Commission.


The ESC as a corporatist initiative

The Single European Act (1986), the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2000) have reinforced the EESC’s role.


The 317 members of the EESC nominated by national governments

They belong to one of three groups: Employers, Employees and Various Interests.

Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom have 24 members each, Malta 5.

Internal Organization

1. Presidency and bureau

Secretariat General

Employers’ Group (Group I)

Employees’ Group (Group II)

“Various Interests” Group (Group III)

2. Sections

The Committee has six sections:

Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT)

Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO)

Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC)

External Relations (REX)

The Single Market, Production and Consumption (INT)

Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN)

A new Consultative Committee on Industrial Change has been incorporated into the EESC structure following the expiry of the ECSC Treaty in July 2002 (CCIC)

Malta’s five members sit on the various committees:

Attard, Grace (National Council of Women) REX, SOC

Calleja, Edwin (Secretary General FOI) ECO, SOC

Darmanin, Anna Maria (Chairperson, UHM) ECO, INT

Pranis, Michael (Deputy Secretary General, GWU) ECO, SOC

Sciberras, Sylvia (Director at PBS, GRTU) INT, REX, SOC

Plenary Session

Overall Analysis

The ESC is a consultative group

Often ignored

Claims to be listened to

Interest groups have other areas of influence

Importance in general policy issues

Constitutional Changes

Extended length of term of office

Lecture 12: The Committee of the Regions

Established in 1994

CoR was set up to address two amin issues:

Regional regulations in determining regional implementation

Subsidiarity and bringing citizens closer to the Union

The Maastricht Treaty set out 5 areas:

Economic and social cohesion

Trans-European Infrastructure networks




The Amsterdam Treaty added another five areas to the list – employment policy, social policy, the environment, vocational training and transport.




Members and Mandate

317 members

Malta has five representatives. These are the mayor of Birkirkara, Kalkara and San Lawrenz and a councillor from Zurrieq and Gzira.

The Committee organises its work through six specialist Commissions.

CoR plenary sessions

There are four political groups represented in the CoR, reflecting the main European political families: the Party of European Socialists (PES), the European People’s Party (EPP), the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) and the European Alliance.

The Bureau

The President

The Vice-President

25 other Vice-Presidents (one for each Member-State)

25 other members

the chairmen of the political groups.

Conclusions and constitutional changes similar EEEC.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on LawTeacher.net then please: