In simple words

The EU institutions for beginners

Let's make clear what's confusing

The European Commission

The one who never stops talking

Probably the institution you have heard of the most. The European Commission is the only body who can draft and propose EU laws. Jean-Claude Juncker, former Luxembourgish prime minister, is the big boss over there, surrounded by its team of 27 other Commissioners from all EU Member States. Each Commissioner is in charge of a specific policy area. Once the Commission proposed an EU law, the proposal goes to the European Parliament and the Council, which can change the proposal and have the final vote on it . The European Commission is also the guardian of the treaties meaning it ensures that the treaties signed by the member states are respected.  

The European Parliament

The young child in need of attention

The European Parliament is one of the two legislative bodies of the European Union. Big boss Martin Schulz is a German socialist. Very proud to be the only ‘directly elected’ legislative body of the EU, the Parliament votes on a majority of laws proposed by the Commission. It is composed of 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) coming from all EU Member States. The MEPs are split into different political groups depending on their political views. It’s actually like in national parliaments. The Parliament meets roughly once a month in Strasbourg for it’s big ‘plenary session’ where the votes take place. The rest of the year, Parliament’s staff is based in Brussels. There,  MEPs attend (or not) their committee meetings where they prepare their position on the different legislative proposals submitted by the Commission.

The Council of the European Union

aka the Council of Ministers, aka the baddies

The Council of the European Union is the second legislative body of the European Union and votes on all legislative proposals coming from the European Commission. For each specific policy area, the respective national ministers from all 28 Member States come and vote together. Depending on the size of the country the minister’s vote can weight more than another, placing big countries at an advantage. The Council of Minister is chaired by the country who holds the ‘presidency’ of the European Union for 6 months.

The European Council

yes it’s confusing

The European Council is another EU institution which brings together all Heads of States from the 28 Member States: Merkel, Hollande, Renzi, … The European Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union. Donald Tusk currently is the President and has the difficult tasks of managing and working with all those big egos around one table. (PS: Don’t mix it up with the Council of Europe who basically has nothing to do with the European Union.)

The Big Bosses

Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker

President of the European Commission

Antonio Tajani

Antonio Tajani

President of the European Parliament

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk

President of the European Council