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Example 2. How does the EU work? - Interactive version

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

What are the three main political institutions of the EU?

Three from the following list are the main political institutions of the EU. Do you know which ones they are?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
a) Yes correct, the Council represents the member states.a) Incorrect, the Council represents the member states.b) Yes correct - The Senate of Europe is not an institution of the EUb) Incorrect - The Senate of Europe is not an institution of the EUc) Yes correct - the European Congress is not an institution of the EUc) Incorrect - the European Congress is not an institution of the EUd) Yes correct - the European Commission is an independent body that upholds the collective European interest d) Incorrect - the European Commission is an independent body that upholds the collective European interest e) Yes correct - the European Congress is not an institution of the EUe) Incorrect - the European Congress is not an institution of the EUf) Yes correct - the European Parliament represents the EU citizens f) Incorrect - the European Parliament represents the EU citizens
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2

The Council of the European Union



Here are some statements about the Council of the European Union. Which do you think are true?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
a) Correct. a) Incorrect. The Council of the European Union is the EU's main decision-making institution.b) Correct.b) Incorrect. Each EU country in turn presides over the Council for a six-month period. c) Correct. 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 agendac) Incorrect. 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 agendad) Correct. 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. d) Incorrect. 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. e) Correct. 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. e)

Incorrect. 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.

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3

The European Parliament


Here are some statements about the European Parliament. Which do you think are true?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
a) Correct. 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.a) Incorrect. 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.b) Correct. The number of MEPs from each country reflects the size of the population of each country. The present parliament, elected in 2004, has 732 members.b) Incorrect. The number of MEPs from each country reflects the size of the population of each country. The present parliament, elected in 2004, has 732 members.c) Correct. Parliament normally holds its plenary session in Strasbourg and any additional sessions in Brussels. c) Incorrect. Parliament normally holds its plenary session in Strasbourg and any additional sessions in Brussels. d) Correct. Parliament cannot initiate legislation, but 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
d) Incorrect. Parliament cannot initiate legislation, but 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
e) Correct. Parliament can reject the proposed budget proposed by the commission, and in fact it has influenced EU policymaking on several occasions in this way.e) Incorrect. Parliament can reject the proposed budget proposed by the commission, and in fact it has influenced EU policymaking on several occasions in this way.
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The European Commission

4

The European Commission


Here are some statements about the European Commission. Which do you think are true?

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
a) Correct. 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. a) Incorrect. 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. b) Correct. b) Incorrect. The Commission has 25 members - one per country.c) Correct. c) Incorrect. The Commission is the only institution that has the right to propose new EU legislation.d) Correct. 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. d) Incorrect. 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. e) Correct. 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.e) Incorrect. 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.
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