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The European Union in Brief

18.7.2018, , Zdroj: Verlag Dashöfer

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The European Union in Brief

Edward Thomas

1. THE EU IN BRIEF

What's that then?

Central to understanding any institution is understanding the key words which describe its organisation. Look at the terms in the box below. Can you fit them into the right sentence?

1. What the EU needs is well established …………………………… which can conduct its business.

2. The Nice …………………………… reformed the structure of the EU to allow for expansion eastwards.

3. …………………………… has traditionally been one of the tasks which only national governments carry out - but this is changing.

4. …………………………… are people who are appointed by national governments to control areas of government like health or education.

5. The …………………………… is the head of a government.

6. The …………………………… is the head of a state.

7. The …………………………… will meet on Thursday and decide on a general approach to this matter.

8. The …………………………… will decide exactly what legislation will be proposed.

9. …………………………… is an area where all Member States have quite specific needs depending on the kind of crime problems they have.

10. The Commission is responsible for proposing …………………………… the detailed principles

on which legal codes in different countries are developed.

11. All …………………………… have to agree to certain principles of co-operation.

12. Members of the European …………………………… (MEPs) face elections in their home countries every five years.

______________________________________________________________________________

treaty, member state, parliament, legislation, ministers, commission, council, institution, foreign policy, justice, president, prime minister

Correct answers are here1

2. AT THE CENTRE

What's that then?

Read through the following description of the EU's main governing bodies. Answer True or False to the questions which follow.

The Council

The Council of the European Union is the main decision-making institution in the EU, which means that it discusses proposals and decides if they are acceptable. It is often informally called the Council of Ministers or just the Council. It is composed of 27 members- one for each Member State, but these change depending on the topic- if it's agriculture, for example, then the agriculture ministers of the members are present.

The European Council

Don't be confused by the name- the European Council is a different body. It is composed of all the head of state or government of the EU members. It has neither legislative nor executive powers but is there to give general political direction through very expensive summits with excellent food and wine that happen about twice a year! Nice for some! It is headed by a rotating presidency so that each EU Member State hold the presidency for six months.

The Commission

The European Commission occupies the Berlaymont building in Brussels- quite a modern building and very big, with a metal frame around it. The European Commission acts as the EU's executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. It is intended to act in the interest of the EU as a whole. This means the Commission typically drives integration with great enthusiasm! It is currently composed of 27 commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state. The President of the Commission and all the other commissioners are nominated by the Council.

The Parliament

The Parliament is based in Strasbourg but also meets in Brussels, so every month they have to move between the two cities- which is very expensive as it means travel for lots of people, and double the office space! (but it is said to be nice for MEPs' expenses ;-) )


The 785 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years. MEPs are elected nationally in each Member State, but they sit in political groupings. Each country has a set number of seats. The Parliament cannot propose new legislation; it can only accept, reject or put forward amendments to laws proposed by the Commission. If the Treaty of Lisbon becomes law, it will increase its powers. The Parliament also has the power to reject or censure the Commission and the EU budget. The President of the European Parliament carries out the role of speaker in parliament and represents it externally. The president and vice presidents are elected by MEPs every two and a half years.

The Lawyers

The legal structure of the EU consists of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Court of First Instance. Together they interpret and apply the treaties and the law of the EU. The Court of First Instance mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts, and the ECJ mainly deals with cases taken by member states.

True or False:

1. The Council usually proposes legislation.

2. All member states can head the European Council for a period of three months.

3. If a political crisis happens, people look to the European Council for help.

4. The Commission decides what legislation to propose.

5. The Commission acts in the interests of the Member States.

6. The President of the Commission and all the commissioners are nominated by the Parliament.

7. Parliament members stay in Brussels all the time.

8. MEPs sit with their fellow countrymen in the parliament building.

9. Parliament regularly proposes new laws requested by voters.

10. The European Court of Justice deals with companies and individuals.

Correct answers are here2

3. WORDS TO KNOW

The following nouns are all typical ways of describing facts of EU life. On the left we have words from the text in following exercise. On the right we have definitions. Can you match them together?

1. Day - to - day running a) detailed ideas for changing society
2. Integration b) special meetings where high level officials and heads of state meet
3. Expenses c) formal agreements that make laws affecting member states
4. Policies d) management of basic continuing functions
5. Proposals e) people who belong to a group
6. Summits f) the process of becoming more united and closer together
7. Treaties g) money that can be returned to the MEP by the EU because he needed it for his work
8. Members h) ideas for discussion and approval of (esp.) a legislative body

Correct answers are here3

Now fit them into these headlines from newspapers:

1) MEP's criticised over …………………………….

2) …………………………… must not be re-negotiated, says Barroso.

3) Stop expensive ……………………………, demonstrators tell heads of state.

4) Meeting only to be open to …………………………….

5) …………………………… are not acceptable, says Parliament, rejecting them.

6) „Our party must develop fresh, detailed …………………………… ” says Sarkozy.

7) …………………………… of EU „very inefficient”, says report.

8) „No to further …………………………… ”, say Eurosceptic MEPs.

Correct answers are here4

4. WHAT THEY DO - VERBS WITH OBJECTS

On the left side of the following table you can see commonly used verbs to describe EU activities. On the right, there are groups of words they can collocate with. To „collocate” means to go together. Look at these collocations and try to find the right words to fit the sentences below.

Nominate a member, a person, a minister- eg. for a position
Propose a law, a regulation
Carry out an instruction, an action, a plan
Interpret a law, a rule, a regulation, treaty, instruction, detail, clause - eg. to make it clear and practical
Apply the law, the rules, a measure, a treaty
Drive (push) a process
Censure a member, a member state, an organisation- eg. for a bad action
Accept a decision, a situation, a proposal, a judgement,
Reject a proposal, a decision, a judgement, a situation
Put forward an amendment, a suggestion, a proposal, a request, an application
Initiate (begin) a process, a procedure

1. Britain was …………………………… for failing to meet its inflation target.

2. The national governments must …………………………… the directives of the Commission.

3. National governments spend a lot of time trying to …………………………… an EU law- to find out exactly what it means for them.

4. The EU must …………………………… the same law to all Member States.

5. We …………………………… a new law that will apply from the 1st Jan 09.

6. The French …………………………… a German- which was a shock!

7. The process is being …………………………… by the Germans and the French working together.

8. We …………………………… this proposal- it's simply not good enough!

9. If the proposal is changed enough, we might …………………………… it.

10. They have …………………………… an application for EU funding.

11. We wish to …………………………… a process of negotiation to solve this problem.

Correct answers are here5

5. SEVEN STEPS TO HEAVEN...

Below there is a description of what the politicians call The Co-decision Procedure, which is the most common way that EU law is made. Read and answer the questions which follow.

The Co-decision Procedure

First of all the Commission makes its proposal - but before this there is a long period of „consultation” where the Commission gets the views of many organisations. Anyway, we'll call this.

Step 1: The Commission proposal

Next, the European Parliament has a „first reading” of the proposal. There is no time limit, and a committee of MEPs, working with a „Rapporteur”, is given the job of analysing the proposal and getting ready an „opinion” which may include „amendments” (changes) When this is done the Commission gives its view of the opinion, and the Parliament votes on it.. We'll call this.

Step 2: Parliament's opinion

At the same time as Parliament is discussing the propopsal, there is a „first reading” in the Council, with the help of „working groups” of experts from member states who report to a permanent body called „Coreper”. They finalise their position when the opinion of Parliament is known, and the Commission has given its view.The Council votes by „qualified majority” if the Commission is happy with the amended proposal, but must be „unanimous” if the Commission is unhappy. This process is called.

Step 3: The first reading in the Council

If the Council is unhappy with the proposal, it adopts a „common position”, and this goes to Parliament. The Commission gives Parliament their view on the common position. Parliament then has three months in which a committee prepares the common position - perhaps amending some parts - for a vote of all the MEP's. Approval for the common position requires an „absolute majority” of MEPs - more than half of the total number of MEPs (367 of 732 currently). If no amendment is made, the common position is adopted and the „act” „ratified” (passed), thus ending.

Step 4: The second reading in Parliament

What Parliament changes (amends), the Council vote on by „qualified majority”. If the Commission doesn't like some of the amendments (changes), the whole Council has to agree, making a „unanimous” agreement. The Council has three months and manages the process through the competent „working party” and Coreper. There are often informal discussions between these, the Commission, and the Rapporteur representing Parliament. When and if the Council agree, the act is finally „adopted” (ratified / accepted as law), and so ends.

Step 5: The second reading in the Council

If there is no agreement, there is a special committee called the conciliation committee. Often using informal meetings called „trialogues”, this tries to make an agreement called a „joint text”. It only has six weeks, officially, but the process often begins early. There are members from the Council, Parliament, and Commission. Parliament's „delegation” is usually from the committee which handled the original proposal. The Commission negotiates between the two other parties, which vote among themselves on changes to their positions until the end of.

Step 6: Conciliation

If a joint text is accepted (approved) by the conciliation committee, Parliament and the Council must approve it within a time limit. This is usually no problem, leading us thankfully to the end of the process and to.

Step 7: Conclusion ;-)

Now test your understanding by answering the following True/False questions:

1. The Commission decides its proposals without asking others what they