The European Union

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The European Union

EU institutions

The European Council is made up of the Heads of State or Heads of Government and the President of the European Commission assisted by the Foreign Ministers and a member of the Commission. It meets twice a year in the capital of the member country whose head of state or government is currently the President of the Council of Ministers. It does not make laws and it is not involved in “routine” decision making but it does make key political decisions on many of the most important, most sensitive, and most controversial matters facing the EU.


The Council of Ministers, based in Brussels, is the real power behind the bureaucracy. It is the main decision-making body. It is entrusted with deciding major policy issues for the EU.

The European Commission with its headquarters in Brussels, is the EU’s watchdog or “civil service”. Its commissioners are nominated by the governments of the EU countries for five-year renewable terms. The Commission has various duties, five of which are of particular importance:

Initiates EU policies.

Has major responsibilities with regard to the management, supervision and implementation of EU policies.

Together with the Court of Justice ensures that EU law is respected.


Represents the EU in many of its external relations.

Acts as a mediator and conciliator

The European Parliament is elected by direct universal suffrage. It normally sits in Strasbourg

where full plenary sessions, open to the press and public, are held for one week each month. The representatives are seated in Parliament by political party, not nationality. It functions as a political driving force and it is also a supervisory body with the power to approve the appointment of the European Commission and to dismiss it on a censure motion carried by a two-thirds majority.

The Court of Justice is the chief judicial body of the EU.


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