1.2.- European Institutions


The Union has an institutional framework aimed at defending its values, objectives and interests, the interests of its citizens and those of its Member States. This framework also contributes to ensuring the coherency, effectiveness and continuity of Community policies and actions. According to Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union, the institutional framework is composed of 7 institutions:

European Parliament

Directly elected by EU voters every 5 years, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) represent the people. Parliament is one of the EU’s main law-making institutions, along with the Council of the European Union ('the Council'). The European Parliament has three main roles: 1) debating and passing European laws, with the Council. 2) Scrutinising other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, to make sure they are working democratically. 3) Debating and adopting the EU's budget, with the Council.

European Council

The European Council brings together the heads of state or government of every EU country, the Commission President and the European Council President, who chairs the meetings. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also takes part. Its role is twofold – setting the EU's general political direction and priorities, and dealing with complex or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at a lower level of intergovernmental cooperation.

The Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies. What does it do? 1) Passes EU laws. 2) Coordinates the broad economic policies of EU member countries. 3) Signs agreements between the EU and other countries. 4) Approves the annual EU budget. 5) Develops the EU's foreign and defence policies. 6) Coordinates cooperation between courts and police forces of member countries.

European Commission

The European Commission is one of the main institutions of the European Union. It represents and upholds the interests of the EU as a whole. It drafts proposals for new European laws. It manages the day-to-day business of implementing EU policies and spending EU funds.

Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries. It also settles legal disputes between EU governments and EU institutions. Individuals, companies or organisations can also bring cases before the Court if they feel their rights have been infringed by an EU institution.

European Court of Auditors

To ensure that EU taxpayers get maximum value for their money, the Court of Auditors has the right to check ('audit') any person or organisation handling EU funds. The Court frequently carries out on-the-spot checks. Its findings are written up in reports submitted to the Commission and EU national governments.

European Central Bank

The European Central Bank (ECB, based in Frankfurt, Germany) manages the euro – the EU's single currency – and safeguards price stability in the EU. The ECB is also responsible for framing and implementing the EU’s economic and monetary policy.

Transparency register

Citizens can, and indeed should, expect the EU decision-making process to be as transparent and open as possible. The more open the process is, the easier it is to ensure balanced representation and avoid undue pressure and illegitimate or privileged access to information or to decision-makers. Transparency is also a key part of encouraging European citizens to participate more actively in the democratic life of the EU. The transparency register has been set up to answer core questions such as what interests are being pursued, by whom and with what budgets. The system is operated jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission.

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