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Example 1. How does the EU work? - Present and Test Version

A common approach is to follow a reading comprehension type model - presenting some information or concepts and then test the users' recall and understanding. The following is an example of this. On the next page there is an example of an alternative approach using the same material.

How do they compare?

How does the European Union work?

The political system of the European Union is founded on a series of treaties signed by the member countries, which constitute what is known as 'primary' legislation. The 'secondary' legislation that has a direct impact on the daily lives of European Union citizens consists mainly of regulations, directives and recommendations. These are the result of decisions taken by three main institutions:

  1. the Council of the European Union (representing the member states);
  2. the European Parliament (representing the citizens); and
  3. the European Commission (a politically independent body that upholds the collective European interest).

The Council of the
European Union



The Council of the European Union is the EU's main decision-making institution. Each EU country in turn presides over the Council for a six-month period. Every Council meeting is attended by one minister from each of the member states. Which ministers attend a meeting depends on which topic is on the agenda.

The Council and European Parliament share legislative power as well as responsibility for the budget. The Council also concludes international agreements that have been negotiated by the Commission.

On important questions such as amending the treaties, launching a new common policy or allowing a new country to join the Union, the Council has to agree its decisions unanimously. In most other cases, qualified majority voting is required - in other words, a decision cannot be taken unless a specified minimum number of votes is cast in its favour.

The European
Parliament



The European Parliament is the elected body that represents the EU's citizens and takes part in the legislative process. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected every five years. The present parliament, elected in 2004, has 732 members. The number of MEPs from each country reflects the size of the population of each country. Parliament normally holds its plenary session in Strasbourg and any additional sessions in Brussels.

Parliament and the Council share legislative power, in three ways:

  1. Parliament gives its opinion on draft directives and regulations proposed by the European Commission
  2. Parliament must give its assent to international agreements negotiated by the Commission, to any proposed enlargement of the European Union
  3. Parliament has the power to throw out proposed legislation in certain fields if an absolute majority of MEPs vote against it

Parliament can reject the proposed budget proposed by the commission, and it has already done so on several occasions to influence EU policymaking.

The European
Commission



The Commission has 25 members - one per country. The Commission acts with complete political independence. Its job is to uphold the interests of the EU as a whole, so it must not take instructions from any member state government. The Commission is also the only institution that has the right to propose new EU legislation.

As the EU's executive arm, the Commission carries out the decisions taken by the Council. The Commission is largely responsible for managing the EU's common policies, such as research, development aid, regional policy, etc.

The Commission is answerable to Parliament, and the entire Commission has to resign if Parliament passes a motion of censure against it. This happened in 1999.

Now see if you can answer the following questions:

1

How many members does the European Commission have?

a)
b)
c)
d)
Please select an answerYes correct - there is one Commissioner per countryNo incorrect - that would make two Commissioners per EU country, where in fact there is only oneNo incorrectNo incorrect - there are 732 members of the European Parliament
Check your answer

2

Which of these powers does the European Parliament have?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
a) Correcta) Incorrectb) Correctb) Incorrectc) Correctc) Incorrectd) Correctd) Incorrecte) Correcte) Incorrect
Check your answer

3

Which body?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
g)
Well done - all your matches are correct. One or more of your matches are incorrect. Your answer has been saved.
Check your answer

4

Which of these statements are true?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
a) Correcta) Incorrectb) Correctb) Incorrectc) Correctc) Incorrectd) Correctd) Incorrecte) Correcte) Incorrectf) Correctf) Incorrect
Check your answer