i. Guardians of the treaties, ensuring that they are faithfully and legally enforced
ii. To initiate policies and proposals to the Council of Ministers for legislation
iii. To manage and execute Union policies and international trade relationships.
The Commission is advised by a network of two types of committees, viz., expert committees and consultative committees. The Commission’s role in competition policy has become increasingly important in recent years. The EU’s Competition Commissioner is the chief regulator of competition policy to see that no one enterprise uses its market power to drive out competitors and monopolise markets. During 1990 to 2000, the Commission reviewed around 1500 merger case. Of these, 13 were rejected and another 13 were withdrawn after the Commission raised objections.
2. The Council of Ministers:
The Council of Ministers serves as the major decision making body, legislative branch, and the ultimate controlling authority within the EU. The proposals sent by the European Commission can become law only if the Council agrees. It comprises of different ministers of the member governments. When farm related issues are discussed the agriculture ministers from the Council, and when transport is the agenda the transport ministers from the Council.
In all there are 25 Councils. Representation in the Council is more or less proportionate to national population, with 87 total votes. The Council has six-monthly rotating presidency with member nations taking turns, in alphabetical order.
All Commission proposals must be approved by 62 votes, but legislation in areas relating to taxation, industry, and culture, regional and social funds must be passed by a unanimous vote. The Council of Ministers gets support from the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). It comprises of Ambassadors to the EU of the member countries.
3. The European Council:
The European Council is the name given to European Summit meetings of the EU heads of state which takes place at least twice a year. The Council is chaired by the head of government of the state currently holding the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The European Council also invites the President of the European Parliament to address the opening session.
The Council is more powerful than the Council of Ministers and the European Commission because decisions taken by the Summit are surely to be implemented. The European Council is leader; the European Commission is its servant and draftsman, and the European Parliament its sounding board.
4. The European Parliament:
Today, the European Parliament is directly elected by the people of the EU in contrast with the original European Parliament (known as the European Assembly) being nominated by the governments of EEC member countries. The parliamentarians are elected for a five year term. The members associate by political affiliation rather than national origin.
The members are elected in proportion to member- country populations. Initially the Parliament was merely an advisory body but the Single European Act and the 1991 Treaty have widened its powers. Three major powers are legislative power, control over budget, and supervision of executive decisions. The Parliament has the ability to amend some legislation, to veto over new membership and “associate Agreements” with non-members. It also has the power to change the budget of the EU.
Apart from the four institutions mentioned above, several other institutions are important in the governance of the EU. The European Court of Justice is one such institution. It is the Supreme Court of the EU, located in Luxembourg. It is composed of one member appointed by each nation. The Court is to interpret the treaties and to ensure that they are properly followed by other EU institutions. The rulings are binding and override the national courts.
Other institutions also include the European Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of Regions, the European Ombudsman, and the European Central Bank.