The European Commission is the executive of the European Union. This means that it is responsible for initiating laws, enforcing the laws of the EU and managing the EU’s policies, and it implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
It is made up of 27 Commissioners (one from each member state) and is based in Brussels. Each member state nominates a commissioner, but the nominated candidates must be approved by the European Parliament. Commissioners do not represent their countries. Instead, they have a field of responsibility. The Parliament must also approve the President of the European Commission. The current President of the European Commission is Ursula von der Leyen.
The Commission proposes new laws, protects the interests of the EU and its citizens on issues that can't be dealt with effectively at national level, gets technical details right by consulting experts and the public, manages EU policies & allocates EU funding, sets EU spending priorities, together with the Council and Parliament, draws up annual budgets for approval by the Parliament and Council, supervises how the money is spent, under scrutiny by the Court of Auditors, enforces EU law, together with the Court of Justice, ensures that EU law is properly applied in all the member countries. The Commission also represents the EU internationally by speaking on behalf of all EU countries in international bodies, in particular in areas of trade policy and humanitarian aid and negotiates international agreements for the EU.
The European Council consists of the heads of government of each EU member state, the European Council President (currently Charles Michel) and the President of the European Commission (Ursula von der Leyen). It is the EU institution that sets out the EU’s political direction and priorities. It does not make laws, and is a separate institution to the Council of the European Union.
The European Council has a number of important functions:
The European Council does not have the power to make laws, but it can ask the European Commission to propose laws. The European Council meets 4 times per year at least.
The European Council mostly takes its decisions by consensus. However, in certain specific cases outlined in the EU treaties, it decides by unanimity or by qualified majority. If a vote is taken, neither the European Council President nor the Commission President takes part.
In the Council of the EU, informally also known as the Council, government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings. Together with the European Parliament, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU. The presidency of the Council rotates every 6 months.
It is a single legal entity, although members are not fixed. The government ministers on the Council will depend on the type of laws or policies that are being discussed. For example, if changes to agricultural laws at EU level are under discussion, the Council will be made up of the ministers with responsibility for agriculture of each member state (the council of ministers).
Not to be confused with:
The Council of the EU negotiates and adopts EU laws, together with the European Parliament, based on proposals from the European Commission, coordinates EU countries' policies, develops the EU's foreign & security policy, based on European Council guidelines, concludes agreements between the EU and other countries or international organisations, adopts the annual EU budget - jointly with the European Parliament.
The European Parliament is the EU's law-making body. It is directly elected by EU voters every 5 years. The last elections were in May 2019. The European Parliament is part of the legislative, or law making, process in the EU. Most proposed laws must be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to become law. The number of MEPs for each country is roughly proportionate to its population, but this is by degressive proportionality: no country can have fewer than 6 or more than 96 MEPs and the total number cannot exceed 705 (704 plus the President). MEPs are grouped by political affiliation, not by nationality.
The European Parliament is based in Brussels, Luxemburg and Strasbourg. It has 3 main roles:
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is the judicial institution of the European Union. It interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and settles legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions. It can also, in certain circumstances, be used by individuals, companies or organisations to take action against an EU institution, if they feel it has somehow infringed their rights. The CJEU gives rulings on cases brought before it.
The most common types of case are:
Private individuals can also ask the Court to annul an EU act that directly concerns them.
The CJEU is divided into 2 courts:
Each judge and advocate general is appointed for a renewable 6-year term, jointly by national governments. In each Court, the judges select a President who serves a renewable term of 3 years.
The European Central Bank (ECB) manages the euro and frames and implements EU economic & monetary policy. Its main aim is to keep prices stable, thereby supporting economic growth and job creation.
European Central Bank sets the interest rates at which it lends to commercial banks in the eurozone (also known as the euro area), thus controlling money supply and inflation, manages the eurozone's foreign currency reserves and the buying or selling of currencies to balance exchange rates, ensures that financial markets & institutions are well supervised by national authorities, and that payment systems work well, ensures the safety and soundness of the European banking system, authorises production of euro banknotes by eurozone countries, monitors price trends and assesses risks to price stability.
The President of the European Central Bank represents the Bank at high-level EU and international meetings. The ECB has the 3 following decision-making bodies: Governing Council – the main decision-making body, Executive Board – handles the day-to-day running of the ECB and General Council – has more of an advisory & coordination role.