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Institutional framework

The EU institutional framework includes:

  • The European Commission 
  • The EU Council
  • The European Parliament 
  • The European Council 
  • The Court of Justice of the European Union
  • The European Court of Auditors 
  • The European Central Bank 

Together, the European Commission, the EU Council and he European Parliament share the law-making power. In principle, the Commission is entrusted with proposing new legislation, while the Parliament and the Council are responsible for the adoption. The Commission also ensures that the laws are properly applied and implemented by Member States.

In case the Council and the Parliament do not reach an agreement in amending the proposals, a Conciliation Committee, also known as “formal trilogue”, is convened in order to speed up the search for a solution. In this process, the European Commission acts as a mediator between the two. "Informal trilogues", on the contrary, can be convened at any moment of the ordinary legislative procedure. Once the compromise reached, each of the three institutions must then approve it through its own formal procedure.

For more information on trilogues, see document [link to pdf] on the European Parliament website at page 21. 

The European Council, on the other hand, sets the EU general policies and overall political priorities but has no power to pass laws. It is therefore important to highlight that the European Council should not be confused with the Council of the EU and still less with the Council of Europe, which is an international organization outside the EU system.

The Court of Justice of the European Union upholds the rules of the European law, while the European Court of Auditors checks the financing of the EU’s activities. The EU institutional framework is then completed by the European Central Bank, which plays a pivotal role for the economic and monetary policies of the EU. 

Other important institutions carry out consultative, financial and surveillance functions. Among them, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank and the European Agencies. 

 

European Commission

The European Commission is the institution that represents and protects, completely independent, the general interests of the Union.

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union is headquartered in Brussels. It represents the EU countries’ governments and is composed by a minister for each Member State, according to the subject matter to discuss. For example, Ministers for agriculture meet in the Council configuration which decides on agricultural policy issues.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is the only EU institution directly elected by European citizens. It is composed of representatives of the citizens of the Union elected by direct universal vote for a five-year term.

European Council

The European Council sets the priorities and EU's overall political direction but has not legislative power. It also determines the EU’s foreign and security policy and makes appointments to other EU institutions.

Court of Justice of the European Union

Jurisdiction of the European Union, the Court of Justice ensures observance of the law in the interpretation and application of the EU Treaties.

European Court of Auditors

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) is based in Luxembourg. It is a collegiate body of 28 Members, one from each Member State. The Court’s Members are appointed by the Council of the EU for a six-year renewable term, after consultation with the European Parliament, while the President is elected among the members themselves for a three-year renewable term.

European Central Bank

The European Central Bank (ECB) was established in 1998 by the Treaty on European Union with the aim to operate within the "European System of Central Banks" (ESCB) which includes all Member States’ central banks.

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