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Overview Of The EU Institutions
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)
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.
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:
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
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?
COREPER I and II
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
EU Foreign Minister
Lecture 4: The Commission
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
Court of Justice
Representing the EU on the international stage
4. The Commissioner’s Working Method
College of Commissioners
Vote in the College
5. The political dynamics within the Commission
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
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
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
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.
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
Greater internal trade
Transaction costs minimised
Single market needs single currency
Peripheral areas may suffer through lack of fiscal remedies
Greater European identity
Pre-cursor to political union
Increases economic confidence
1969: The Hague Summit
The Economic crisis of the 1970s
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)
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.
1. Presidency and bureau
Employers’ Group (Group I)
Employees’ Group (Group II)
“Various Interests" Group (Group III)
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
The ESC is a consultative group
Claims to be listened to
Interest groups have other areas of influence
Importance in general policy issues
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
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.
25 other Vice-Presidents (one for each Member-State)
25 other members
the chairmen of the political groups.
Conclusions and constitutional changes similar EEEC.
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