The Institutions Of The European Union


The European Union consists of eight institutions employing only 24 500 people.
The Union has come a long way since the European Coal and Steel Community was founded in 1952 to lay the basis for lasting peace and prosperity. Membership has more than doubled to embrace 15 European States. The probable arrival of many more new members in the years ahead is foreseeable. One of the most important questions will be whether and how the institutions need to be altered to give effective service to a much larger Union.

In the last 20 years, the Parliament has become directly - elected and acquired new powers, the European Court of Auditors has arrived on the scene, the European Investment Bank has emerged as a major source of finance for economic development, the Economic and Social Committee has testified to the value of debate and cooperation between the social partners and, most recently, the Committee of the Regions has been set op to advance regional interests and diversity.

European Parliament

Members: 626 elected every 5 years
Germany 99, France, Italy, the United Kingdom 87 each, Spain 64, the Netherlands 31, Belgium, Greece and Portugal 25 each, Sweden 22, Austria 21, Denmark and Finland 16 each, Ireland 15, Luxembourg 6. Next election due 1999
Meeting places: Strasbourg for monthly plenary sessions. Brussels for committee meetings and additional sessions. The General Secretariat is based in Luxembourg.

The European Parliament is the directly - elected democratic expression of the political will of the peoples of the European Union, the largest multinational parliament in the world. Representing the 370 million citizens of the Union, its primary objectives are like those of any parliament - to pass good laws and to control the use of executive power. Now more than before, it is in a much better position to do both because its responsibilities have been gradually widened and its powers strengthened first by the Single Act of 1987 and then by the Treaty on European Union 1993.

Naturally, the Parliament sees itself as the guardian of the European interest and the defender of the citizens' rights. Individually, or as a group, European citizens have the right to petition the Parliament and can seek redress of their grievances on matters that fall within the European Union’s sphere of responsibility. The Parliament has also appointed an ombudsman, Mr Jacob Magnus S√∂derman, to investigate allegations of maladministration brought by citizens.

The European Parliament attaches a high priority to maintaining links with national parliaments through regular meetings between speakers and chairmen and between parliamentary committees. These contacts are further enlivened by discussion of Union policies in major conclaves known as "parliamentary assizes".

Powers of the Parliament

The most important powers of the European Parliament fall into three categories:

    legislative power power over the budget supervision of the executive

Legislative Power

Originally, the Treaty of Rome (1957) gave the Parliament only a consultative role, allowing the Commission to propose and the Council of Ministers to decide legislation. Subsequent Treaties have extended Parliament’s influence to amending and even adopting legislation so that the Parliament and Council now share the power of decision in a large number of areas.

    The consultation procedure requires an opinion from the Parliament before a legislative proposal from the Commission can be adopted by the Council. This applies, for example, to agricultural price review.

    The cooperation procedure allows Parliament to improve proposed legislation by amendment. It involves two readings in Parliament, giving members ample opportunity to review and amend the Commission’s proposal and the Council’s position.
This procedure applies to a large number of areas including the European Regional Development Fund, research, the environment and overseas cooperation and development.

    The co - decision procedure shares decision - making power equally between the Parliament and the Council. A conciliation committee - made up of equal numbers of Members of Parliament and of the Council, with the Commission present - seeks a compromise on a text that the Council and Parliament can both subsequently endorse.
Co - decision procedure applies to a wide range of issues such as the free movement of workers, consumer protection, education, culture, health and trans - European networks.

    Parliament’s agreement is required for important international agreements such as the accession of new Member States, association agreements with third countries, the organization and objectives of the Structural and [1]Cohesion Funds and the Tasks and powers of the European Central Bank.

Budgetary Powers

The European Parliament approves the Union’s budget each year. The budgetary procedure allows Parliament to propose modifications and amendments to the Commission’s initial proposals and to the position taken by the Council. On agricultural spending and costs arising from international agreements the Council has the last word, but on other expenditure - for example, education, social programmes, regional funds, environmental and cultural projects - Parliament decides in close cooperation with the Council.

Supervision of the Executive

The Parliament exercises overall political supervision of the way the Union’s policies are conducted. Executive power in the Union is shared between the Commission and the Council of Ministers and their representatives appear regularly before Parliament.

Parliament and Commission

Parliament has an important role every five years in appointing the President and members of the Commission. It exercises detailed scrutiny through a close examination of the many monthly and annual reports which the Commission is obliged to submit to the Parliament. Members may also put written and oral questions to the Commission and they regularly interrogate Commissioners at Question Time during plenary sessions and at meetings of parliamentary committees.

If the worse comes to the worst (which has never yet occurred), Parliament can pass a motion of censure on the Commission and force it to resign.

Parliament and Council

The President in office of the Council presents his or her Programme at the beginning of a presidency and gives an account of it to Parliament at the end of that period. He or she also reports on the results of each European Council and on progress in the development of foreign and security policy.

Ministers attend plenary sessions and take part in Question Time and in important debates. They must also respond to written questions.

At the beginning of each meeting of the European Council, the President of Parliament presents the institution’s main positions on the topics to be discussed by the Heads of State or Government. His speech often sets the tone for the important discussion of the day.

Organization of the Parliament

All of the EU's major political currents are represented in the Parliament, ranging from far left to far right, and numbering close to 100 political parties. These are organized in a limited number of political groups (presently eight).
Overall management of the Parliament’s activities is the responsibility of the Bureau which consists of the President and 14 Vice - Presidents. All of its Members are elected for terms of two and a half years.
The chairmen of the political groups participate with the President of Parliament in the Conference of Presidents which is responsible for organizing the Parliament’s work and drawing up the agenda for plenary sessions.

Much of the effective work of Parliament is conducted in its 20 committees covering all areas of the Union’s activities, ranging from Agriculture to Common Foreign and Security Policy, from Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights to Overseas Cooperation and Development.

Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers)

Members: ministers of the 15 Member States
Presidency: from 1 July 1995 rotates every six months in the following sequence: Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Finland, Portugal, France, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Greece
Meeting place: Brussels

The Council of the European Union, usually known as the Council of Ministers, has no equivalent anywhere in the world. Here, the Member States legislate for the Union, set its political objectives, coordinate their national policies and resolve differences between themselves and with other institutions.

It is a body with the characteristics of both a supranational and intergovernmental organization, deciding some matters by qualified majority voting, and others by unanimity.

Its democratic credentials should not be in doubt. Each meeting of the Council brings together Member States' representatives, usually ministers, who are responsible to their national parliaments and public opinions. Nowadays, there are regular meetings of more than 25 different types of Council meeting: General Affairs (Foreign Affairs ministers), Economy and Finance, and Agriculture meet monthly, others such as Transport, Environment and Industry meet two to four times a year.

In 1994, the Council held around 100 formal ministerial sessions during which it adopted about 300 regulations, 50 directives and 160 decisions.

The council of Ministers is making strong efforts to make more of its work accessible to the citizen. Votes on legislative matters, as well as the explanations of these votes, are now automatically made public.

The Presidency

The Presidency of the council rotates between the Member States every six months: January until June, July until December.

The Presidency's role has become increasingly important as the responsibilities of the Union have broadened and deepened. It must:

    arrange and preside over all meetings; elaborate acceptabel compromises and find pragmatic solutions to problems submitted to the Council; seek to secure consistency and continuity in decision - taking.

Decision - making

The Treaty on European Union based the Union's activities on three "pillars" and established that mainly decisions should be taken either by qualified majority voting or by unanimity.

Pillar One covers a wide range of Community policies (such as agriculture, transport, environment, energy, research and development) designed and implemented according to a well - proven decision - making process which begins with a Commission proposal. Following a detailed examination by experts and at the political level, the Council can either adopt the Commissional proposal, amend it or ignore it.

The Treaty on European Union increased the European Parliament’s say through a co - decision procedure (chapter 2.1.1, 3.), which means that a wide range of legislation (such as internal market, consumer affairs, trans - European networks, education and health) is adopted both by the Parliament and the Council.

In the vast majority of cases (including agriculture, fisheries, internal market, environment and transport), the Council decides by a qualified majority vote with Member States carrying the following weightings:

Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom:
10 votes
8 votes
Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal:
5 votes
Austria and Sweden:
4 votes
Ireland, Denmark and Finland:
3 votes
2 votes
87 votes

When a Commission proposal is involved, at least 62 votes must be cast in favour. In other cases, the qualified majority is also 62 votes, but these must be cast by at least 10 Member States. In practice, the Council tries to reach the widest possible consensus before taking a decision so that, for example, only about 14 % of the legislation adopted by the Council in 1994 was the subject of negative votes and abstentions.
Those policy areas in Pillar One which remain subject to unanimity include taxation, industry, culture, regional and social funds and the framework programme for research and technology development.

For the other two pillars created by the Treaty on European Union - Common Foreign and Security Policy (Pillar Two) and Cooperation in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs (Pillar Three), the Council is the decision - maker as well as the promoter of initiatives. Unanimity is the rule in both pillars.

The European Council ¬Ļ Council of the EU (Ministers)

Since 1974, Heads of State or Government meet alt least twice a year in the form of the European Council or "European Summit". Its membership also includes the President of the Commission. The President of the European Parliament is invited to make a presentation at the opening session.
The European Council has become an increasingly important element of the Union, setting priorities, giving political direction, providing impetus for its development and resolving contentious issues that have proved too difficult for the Council of Ministers.
The European Council submits a report to the European Parliament after each of its meetings and an annual written report on the progress achieves by the Union.

Community Legislation

Community law, adopted by the Council - or by the Parliament and Council in the framework of the co - decision procedure - may take the following forms:

, regulations: these are directly applied without the need for national measures to implement them;

, directives: bind Member States as to the objectives to be achieved while leaving the national authorities the power to choose the form and the means to be used;

, recommendations and opinions: these are not binding.


Each Member State has a national delegation in Brussels known as the Permanent Representation. These delegations are headed by Permanent Representatives, who are normally very senior diplomats and whose committee, called Coreper, prepares ministerial sessions. Coreper meets weekly and its main task is to ensure that only the most difficult and sensitive issues are dealt with at ministerial level.
Coreper is also the destination of reports from the many Council working groups of national experts. These groups make detailed examinations of Commission proposals and indicate, among other things, areas of agreement and disagreement.

The Secretariat - General provides the intellectual and practical infrastructure of the Council at all levels. It is an element of continuity in the Council proceedings and has the custody of Council acts and archives. Its Legal Service advises the Council and committees on legal matters. The Secretariat - General is appointed by the Council acting unanimously.

European Commission

Number of Members: 20
Number per country: two from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom
and one from each of the other Member States
Headquarters: Brussels

The role and responsibilities of the European Commission place it firmly at the heart of the European Union’s policy - making process. In some respects, it acts as the heart of Europe, from which the other institutions derive much of their energy and purpose.

Without the 20 men and women who are its Members and the 15 000 staff who serve it, the Union would not work. The Council and the European Parliament need a proposal from the Commission before they can pass legislation. EU laws are mainly upheld by Commission action, the integrity of the single market is preserved by Commission policing, agricultural and regional development policies are sustained, managed and developed by the Commission as is development cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. Research and technological development programmes, vital for the future of Europe, are orchestrated by the Commission.

Members of the Commission

It is the 20 Members of the Commission who provide its political leadership and direction. They bring a powerful mix of experience to their tasks, having been members of their national parliaments or of the European Parliament and, in many cases, after having held senior ministerial offices in their home countries.

They are obliged to be completely independent of their national governments and to act only in the interests of the EU. Such impartiality and commitment enables the Commission to be an effective honest broker, mediating conflicts of interest between Member States when needed.

The present Commission has five women members, more than any of its predecessors. The President is chosen by the Heads of State or Government meeting in the European Council after consulting the European Parliament. The other members of the Commission are nominated by the 15 member governments in consultation with incoming President.

The Commission meets once a week to conduct its business, which may involve adopting proposals, finalizing policy papers and discussing the evolution of its priority policies. Commissioners are expected to give full support to all policies, even when they are adopted by majority.

Democratic Accountability

The Commission’s democratic legitimacy is being increasingly strengthened by more determined and thorough Parliamentary vetting of the President and his colleagues. The full Commission has to be approved by the European Parliament before its members can take office. They can be required to resign en bloc by parliamentary vote of censure - a Power which has never yet been used.

Commission Organization

With its staff of 15 000, the Commission is the largest of the Union’s institutions. The employment total, however, is modest, given the wide range of its responsibilities and also bearing in mind that one fifth work in the translation and interpretation services. Their work is essential to the Commission which must be able to reach all of the citizens o the Union in their own languages.

The Commission is divided into 26 directorates - general (DGs) with an additional 15 or so specialized services. Each DG is headed by a director - general, reporting to a Commissioner who has the political an operational responsibility for the work of the DG.

The Work of the Commission

The Commission is not an all - powerful institution. Its proposals, actions and decisions are in various ways scrutinized, checked and judged by all of the other institutions, with the exception of the European Investment Bank. Nor does it take the main decisions on Union policies and priorities - this is the prerogative of the Council and, in some cases, of the European Parliament.

The classic description of the Commission's role identifies three distinct functions:

    initiating proposals for legislation; guardian of the Treaties; the manager and executor of Union policies and of international trade relationships.

Legislative Initiative

The legislative process begins with a Commission proposal - Community law cannot be made without one. In devising its proposals, the Commission has three constant objectives: to identify the European interest, to consult as widely as is necessary and to respect the principle of subsidiarity.

The European interest means that a legislative proposal reflects the Commission’s judgement of what is best for the Union and its citizens as a whole, rather than for sectoral interests or individual countries.

Consultation is essential to the preparation of a proposal. The Commission is no ivory tower. It listens to governments, industry, trade unions, special interest groups and technical experts before completing its final draft.

Subsidiarity is enshrined in the Treaty on European Union and is applied by the Commission in such a way as to ensure that the Union takes action only when it will be more effective than if left to individual Member States.

Once the Commission has formally sent a proposal for legislation to the Council and the Parliament, the Union’s law - making process is very dependent on effective cooperation between the three institutions.

The Commission does not have an exclusive right of initiative in the two areas of intergovernmental cooperation covered by the Treaty on European Union - Common Foreign and Security Policy and cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs. But it can submit proposals in the same way as national governments and it participates in discussions at all levels.

Guardian of the Treaties

It is the Commission’s job to ensure that Union legislation is applied correctly by the Member States. If they breach their Treaty obligation, they will face Commission action, including legal proceedings at the Court of Justice.
In certain circumstances, the Commission can fine individuals, firms and organizations for infringing Treaty law, subject to their right to appeal to the Court of Justice. Illegal price - fixing and market - rigging cartel have been a constant object of its attention and the subject of very large fines. The Commission also maintains a close scrutiny over government subsidies to industry and certain kind of State aid must, by Treaty, receive its assent.

Manager and Negotiatior

The Commission manages the Union’s annual budget [2](ECU 86 billion in 1996) which is dominated by farm spending allocated by the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund and by the Structural Funds, designed to even out the economic disparities between the richer and poorer areas.

Its executive responsibilities are wide: it has delegated powers to make rules which fill in the details of Council legislation; it can introduce preventive measures for a limited period to protect the Community market from dumping by third countries; it enforces the Treaty's competition rules and regulates mergers and acquisitions above a certain size.

The Union’s effectiveness in the world is enhanced by the Commission’s role as negotiator of trade and cooperation agreements with other countries, or groups of countries.

The Court of Justice of the European Communities

Court of Justice: 15 judges and 9 advocates general
Court of First Instance: 15 judges
Members of both Courts are appointed by the Member States for renewable terms of six years
Address: Luxembourg

The Union, like the European Communities on which it is founded, is governed by the rule of law.
The role of the Court is to provide the judicial safeguards necessary to ensure that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaties and, generally in all of the activities of the Community.
The success of Community law in embedding itself so thoroughly in the legal life of the Member States is due to its having been perceived, interpreted and applied by the citizens, the administrative authorities and the courts of the Member States as a uniform body of rules upon which individuals may rely in their national courts. The decisions of the Court have made Community law a reality for the citizens of Europe and often have important constitutional and economic consequences.
The court may be called upon to decide cases brought by the Member States, by the Community institutions and by individuals and companies. It ensures uniform interpretation of Community law throughout the Community by close cooperation with national courts and tribunals through the preliminary ruling procedure.

The Court of Justice worked alone until 1.9.1989 when the Council attached to it a Court of First Instance on order to improve the judicial protection of individual interests and to enable the Court of Justice to concentrate its activities on its fundamental task of ensuring uniform interpretation of Community law.

The Court of First Instance now has jurisdiction to deal with all actions brought by individuals and companies against decisions of the Community institutions and agencies. Its judgments may be subject to an appeal brought before the Court of Justice but only on a point of law.

The Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges and 9 advocates general appointed by common accord of the Member States for a renewable term of six years. Their independence must be beyond doubt and they must be qualified for the highest judicial offices in their respective countries or be jurists of recognized competence. The judges elect the President of the Court from among their number for a term of three years. The President directs the work of the Court and presides at hearings and deliberations. The Court is assisted by the advocates general whose task is to deliver independent and impartial opinions on cases brought before it.
The Court of First Instance has 15 judges appointed by the Member States for the same renewable term of office. This Court also elects its President, however there are no advocates general.

The Court of Justice may sit in plenary session or in chambers of three or five judges. It sits in plenary session when it so decides or if a Member State or an EU institution which is a party to the proceedings so requests.
For its part the Court of First Instance sits in chambers of three or five judges. It may sit in plenary session for certain important cases.

Broadly speaking two types of cases may be brought before the Court of Justice:

    either direct actions may be brought directly before the Court by the Commission, by other Community institutions or a Member State. Cases brought by individuals or companies challenging the legality of a Community act are brought directly before the Court of First Instance. If an appeal is lodged against a decision of the Court of First Instance it is dealt with by the Court of Justice according to a procedure similar to that of other direct actions; or preliminary rulings may be requested by courts or tribunals in the Member States when they need a decision on a question of Community law in order to be able to give a judgment. The Court of Justice is not a court of appeal from the decisions of national courts and can only rule on matters of Community law. Having given its decision the national court is bound to apply the principles of Community law as laid down by the Court in deciding the case before it.

Written exchanges are an important part of the Court’s procedures, both for pleadings and for submission of observations.
The judges consider the case in closed deliberation and then deliver judgment in open court. The text of the judgment includes the reasoning upon which it is based and copies of the text are available in all 11 official languages. Since 1954 over 9 000 cases have been brought before the Court of Justice which has delivered some 4 000 judgments.

European Court of Auditors

Members: 15, one per Member State
Headquarters: Luxembourg

The European Court of Auditors is the taxpayer representative, responsible for checking that the European Union spends its money according to its budgetary rules and regulations and for the purposes for which it is intended.

It is a guarantor that certain moral, administrative and accounting principles will be respected. The Court’s reports are a rich source of information on the management of the Union’s finances, and a source of pressure on the institutions and others with administrative responsibility to manage them soundly.

The Courts's function, performed with complete independence, is a vital contribution to transparency in the Union. Objective scrutiny reassures the taxpayer that the Union’s money is being managed responsibly.

Broad and Detailed Scrutiny

In 1995, the Union’s budgetary operations reached ECU 100 billion, including borrowing and lending activities. Every institution and body that has access to Union funds is subject to scrutiny and must provide the Court of Auditors with the information and documents it requires. Not only the European institutions fall within its scope; national, regional and local administrations which manage Community funds must satisfy the Court that all is in order, as will as recipients of Community aid, inside and outside the Union.
The task of the Court and its auditors is to check that revenue and expenditure observe the legal regulations and are in line with the Community's budgetary and accounting principles. At the same time, the Court is also concerned to make cure that the Community is getting value for its money by checking whether and to what extent financial management objectives have been achieved and at what price.

Reports, Opinions and Statement of Assurance

The Court's observations on the management of Community finances are published in its Annual report - together with the replies from the institutions concerned. The Annual report highlights those areas in which improvements are possible and desirable. Adopted every year in November, the report is examined by the European Parliament on a recommendation of the Council when it is considering whether or not to give a discharge to the Commission for its management of the budget.
The Court is not limited, however, to just this occasion if it wants to make its views felt. It can, at any time, issue special reports on specific areas of budget management. For their part, if the institutions feel they need guidance on some aspects of their management of funds they can ask the Court for an opinion and must do so before adopting documents relating to financial regulations and own resources (EU budget revenues).

European Investment Bank

Members: the 15 Member States
Address: Luxembourg

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, provides long - term loans for capital investment promoting the Union's balanced economic development and integration. The EIB is a flexible and cost - effective source of finance whose ECU 20 billion volume of annual lending makes it the largest of the international financing institutions in the world.

In the European Union, EIB loans go to projects which fulfil one or mire of the following objectives:

    strengthening economic progress in the less favoured regions; improving trans - European networks in transport, telecommunications and energy transfer; enhancing industry's international competitiveness and its integration at a European level and supporting small and medium - sized enterprises; protecting the environment and quality of life, promoting urban development and safeguarding the EU's architectural heritage; achieving secure energy supplies.

The Bank carries out a rigorous appraisal of each investment project, not only assessing its consistency with EU policies but also vetting its economic and environmental justification as well as its financial and technical viability.

Lending outside the Union:
While the EU is the main focus of its activities, the EIB also helps to execute the financial aspects of the Union’s cooperation policies with non - Member States. Currently, the Bank is operating in more than 100 of these countries.

Sources of Funds:
Projects supported by EIB loans carry the lightest possible interest rate burden. The Bank obtains the bulk of its resources on the capital markets where its top (AAA) credit rating enables it to borrow on the best terms available and to pass on the benefit to project promoters.
As a major presence on the capital markets - raising over ECU 12.4 billion in 16 currencies in 1995.

Economic and Social Committee

Members: 222;
France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom 24 each, Spain 21, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Austria 12 each, Denmark, Ireland and Finland 9 each and Luxembourg 6
Term of office: four years
Meeting places: Brussels, monthly

The role of the Economic and Social Committee is purely consultative; it issues opinions which reflect the views of a membership which is drawn from a broad cross - section of the Union's social and economic life.
Members of the Committee are drawn from a very broad range of activities in civil society. Some represent the employers and workers (the "social partners"), while the activities of others range from farming to commerce, transport to crafts, the profession to consumer protection and cooperatives and mutuals sector, and from small and medium - sized enterprises to environmental protection. The Committee’s members are divided into three groups of roughly equal numbers: employers (Group I), workers (Group II) and various interests (Group III).


The Treaty obliges the Commission and the Council to ask the Committee for its opinion on certain legislative items and leaves them free to choose whether or not to do so on others. However, since 1972, the Committee has had the right to issue opinions on any matter of Community interest.
Not a single European law of any significance has been passed without the Committee's voice being heard. Since its beginning, the Committee has adopted more than 3 000 opinions.

The work of discussing and drafting an opinion is performed within a structure of nine sections, resembling parliamentary committees, with a rapporteur and study group appointed for each issue. Opinions are adopted by a simple majority during the monthly plenary sessions.
This process has a special utility which may not be always immediately apparent. By requiring its members to find common ground on each issue and to resolve conflicts of interest between the different economic and social groups, the Committee’s work is a useful contribution to consensus - building within the Union’s legislative process.

Reviewing the Single Market

Given the involvement of its members in the Union’s daily economic life, the Committee is well - qualified to contribute directly to the growth and development of the single market. At the request of the European Parliament, the Commission and the Presidency of the Council, it exercises a continuous overview of the internal market and draws attention to malfunctions. Twice a year, it organizes a "Single market forum" which brings together a network of correspondents in the Member States to review developments.

Maintaining Links

The Economic and Social Committee maintains good relations with equivalent organizations at international, national and regional levels.
Supported by the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, the Committee has developed an important programme of contacts with social and economic entities in the African, Caribbean and Pacific States, in the countries of EFTA, Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean basin, Latin America and the USA.

Committee of the Regions

Members: 222 comprising:
France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom 24 each, Spain 21, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Austria 12 each, Denmark, Ireland and Finland 9 each and Luxembourg 6
Term of office: four years
Meeting places: Brussels, five plenaries per year

The Committee of the Regions is the European Union’s youngest institution whose birth reflects Member States' strong desire not only to respect regional and local identities and prerogatives but also to involve them in the development and implementation of EU policies. For the first time in the history of the EU, there is now a legal obligation to consult the representatives of local and regional authorities on a variety of matters that concern them directly.

Guardian of Subsidiarity

Created as a consultative body by the Treaty on EU, the Committee has emerged as a strong guardian of the principle of subsidiarity since its first session in 1994.
Subsidiarity is enshrined in the Treaty and means that decisions should be taken by those public authorities which stand as close to the citizen as possible. It is a principle which resists unnecessarily remote, centralized decision - taking. As regional presidents, mayors of cities or chairmen of city and county councils, the 222 members of the Committee are elected officials from the levels of government closest the citizen.
This means that they have a very direct experience of how the Union’s policies and legislation affect the everyday life of their citizens. With such resources, the Committee is able to bring powerful expertise and influence to bear on the Union’s other institutions.
The Treaty requires it to be consulted on matters relating to trans - European networks, public health, education, youth, culture and economic and social cohesion. But the Committee can also take the initiative and give its opinion on other policy matters that affects cities and regions, such as agriculture and environmental protection.
The Committee’s work is based on a structure of eight standing Commissions and four
Sub - Commissions:
    Regional Development, Economic Development, Local and Regional Finances Sub - Commission: Local and regional finances Spatial Planning (agriculture, hunting, fisheries, marine environment and upland areas) Sub - Commission: Tourism, rural areas Transport and Communications networks Sub - Commission: Telecommunications Citizen's Europe, Research, Culture, Youth and Consumers Sub - Commission: Youth and sports Urban Policies Land - use Planning, Environment, Energy Education, Training Economic and Social Cohesion, Social Policy, Public Health
The Committee has also established a Special Commission on Institutional Affairs, which is responsible for contributing to the debate on the reform of the EU institutions. The Bureau, elected for a two - year term, organizes the work of the Committee of the Regions.

Bibliographical Reference

"Im Dienste Europas"
EGKS - EG - EAG, Br√ľssel • Luxemburg, 1996
"√Ėsterreich und Europa - heute/morgen"
Ueberreuter, Wien, 1993
"Serving the European Union"
ECSC - EC - EAEC, Brussels • Luxembourg, 1996
C. D. Grupp: "Europa 2000 - Die Europäische Union der 15"
OMNIA Verlag, Edition 1996, Europäische Parlament
Dr. K. - D. Borchardt: "Die Europäische Einigung"
EGKS - EG - EAG, Br√ľssel • Luxemburg, 1995
4. Ausgabe
RKPB - Unterlagen und Mitschrift

[1] Funds for programmes designed to promote a more balanced economic development within and between Member States.
[2] 1 ECU = 13,62 ATS (Stand 1.2.1996)

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