1. Brief description of the main functions of European Union institutions
According to the article 13 of the Treaty of the European Union, the European Union (EU) is governed by the seven institutions: the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Court, Council of the European Union, European Council, European Central Bank, European Court of Auditors. (Treaty on the European union, 1992)
The European Commission is the highest executive body of the European Union. It`s main functions are: implementing of the decisions of the Union, monitoring the compliance with its laws and, if required, initiating of a lawsuit against the European Union Member Countries that violated its membership obligations. The Commission is composed of 28 commissioners who are appointed by a consensus of Member Governments for the term of five years. The Commission is represented by one representative from each member country.
The purpose of the European Commission is the coordination of the executive authorities of all EU countries. The Commission develops recommendations for the activities of the European Parliament, initiates legislation in order to comply with European standards of the national legislation of EU Member States, monitors the compliance of European standards, provides systematic consultation with all national governments in order to develop a common economic (industrial, customs, monetary, agricultural, etc.), foreign, military, cultural policy.
European Parliament is the legislative body of the European Union which is directly elected by citizens of member countries of the Union. Together with the Council of the European Union, parliament forms a bicameral legislative branch of the EU. The main functions of The European Parliament are: control of the European Commission, legislation and budgeting.
The European Parliament, along with the Council of the European Union, represents a legislative branch of the power in the European Union.. After the signing of the treaty of Nice, a joint decision rule started to function. According to that principle, the Parliament and the Council must consider the bill proposed by the Commission within two separate readings. In there are any disagreements in regard to the bill, they should be resolved during the third reading.
In general, this system resembles the separation of legislative power in Germany between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. Nevertheless, the European Parliament, unlike the Bundestag , has no right of initiative, in other words, it cannot adopt its own laws. Only the European Commission has a right of legislative initiative.
The European Parliament and the Council create the Budget Committee, which forms the EU budget. Parliament also exercises control over the activities of the European Commission. Plenum of the Parliament must approve the composition of the Commission. Parliament has the right to accept or reject the Commission only in full, and not its individual members.
European Court consists of three institutions: the European Court (Court of Justice), the Court of First Instance (established in 1988) and the Civil Tribunal service (created in 2004).The Court ensures uniform interpretation and application of EU law in all EU countries. For example, the Court ensures that national courts do not hold different rulings which rise from a single case. The Court has the authority to regulate legal disputes between countries - EU Member States, EU institutions, companies and individuals. The Court is represented by one judge from each EU country. Therefore, the Court represents national legal systems of all EU countries.
The Court of First instance aims to assist the EU Court in coping with a large number of cases submitted for its consideration, and to provide better legal protection for citizens. The Court of First Instance, which functions within the European Court, decides on complaints by individuals, companies, certain organizations and cases involving violations of competition. The Civil Service Tribunal of the European Union arbitrates in disputes between European Union and its civil service. Tribunal consists of seven judges and acts within the Court of First Instance.
European Council is the highest political body of the European Union which is composed of the heads of states and governments of EU member states. The Board determines the basic strategic direction of the EU. The chief purpose of the European Council is the development of the strategic guideline of political integration. Together with the Council of Ministers, the European Council is endowed with a political function to alter the basic treaties of European integration. The decisions of the Council have the character of legally binding political directives. Institutions, agencies and organizations, as well as Member States, are legally obliged to fulfill those directives and to ensure their enforcement.
Council of the European Union, along with the European Parliament, is one of the two legislative bodies of the European Union. The Council plays a key role in the area of European integration where decision-making occurs at the intergovernmental level. In the terminology of the Maastricht Treaty it can be assumed, that the Council is competent in those matters which may be assigned to the second and third pillars of European integration (common foreign and security policy and cooperation on domestic issues). At the same time, the Council of the EU is included in the legislative body of the European Union. Any legal act of the European Union must be approved by the Council, but a number of legal acts, as well as the budget of the European Union, shall be the result of a joint decision of the Council and the European Parliament.
European Central Bank is the central bank of the European Union and the euro zone which was formed on 1 June 1998. Its staff includes representatives of all EU Member States. The Bank is completely independent from the rest of the EU.
formulation and implementation of monetary policy of the euro area ;
deposition of official exchange reserves of the euro area countries and its management;
issuance of euro banknotes ;
establishment of the basic interest rate .
maintenance of price stability in the euro area - that is providing the level of inflation not higher than 2%
European Court of Auditors - The Chamber was established in 1975 to audit the budget of the Union and its institutions.
The Counting Chamber has the following functions:
verification of reports on income and expenditure of the European Union and all its institutions and agencies with access to the funds of the European Union ;
quality control of financial management ;
drawing up a report on its work after the end of each fiscal year , as well as presentation to the European Parliament and the Council.
Analysis of the functions of the European Union institutions.
The institutional system of the European Union does not adhere to the classic designs of the organization of states. This is particularly noticeable from the standpoint of the principle of separation of powers. Although the functions of the legislative, executive and judicial power in the institutional system of EU actively manifest, their institutionalization is different than the organization of a national state. The doctrine of separation of powers suggests, that firstly , the laws are approved by Parliament, secondly, the implementation of laws and current control is vested on the executive power (monarch , president, government, etc. ) and thirdly, the disputes are resolved by the court: that is the judiciary power. Later, under the influence of power-sharing practices, this system has undergone some changes, especially in the relationship between parliament and the executive organs. However, the basic scheme of separation of powers is preserved, which suggests it as a general rule.
The undeniable part of the doctrine of separation of powers is a system of checks and balances. No branch of government can usurp all power, abolish or undermine democratic order, violate the fundamental rights and freedoms. The system of checks and balances serves as a barrier to the adoption of unskilled government decisions and overall mismanagement of the country. Mutual control of power is a prerequisite of successful functioning of modern democratic states.
In the European Union, a number of administrative functions is carried out not by a single institution but by several institutions on a common basis. The mechanism of separation of powers in the European Union is aimed not only at preventing the concentration of all power in the hands of one institution, but designed to provide a balance between “national” and “European” interests. According to the development of integration processes, "balance of power" in the Union increasingly shifts toward supranational institutions representing the "common interests" of the EU.
In the system of governance of EU, the strict separation of legislative and executive branches of government is not followed. Council of the European Union (Council) remains the most influential institution. This is the main legislative body of the European Union which regularly employs representatives of the executive authorities of the Member States.
Together with the Council, there is a Commission that also acts as a quasi-government. The European Parliament cooperates with the Council in the sphere of legislation, and its legislative powers over the past decade significantly increased.
As to the main issues which the Council decides by qualified majority (including consumer rights protection, health, education, culture), the Maastricht Treaty stipulates the joint solution procedure of the Council and Parliament. According to this procedure, the European Parliament may be invited to suggest the bill received from the Commission, its own amendments, which, in order to be accepted, must get the approval of the Council voting by qualified majority. In addition, the Parliament has the right to reject by the absolute majority the decision formulated in the Council.
However, the power of the European Parliament in the adoption of laws is limited in comparison with the similar powers of national legislative organs. Based on these facts, we can conclude that the EU has no strong center, and its system of decentralized management, is essentially a system of " governance without government".
It is particularly important, that the European Union system of checks and balances is different from the one in Member States. As the functions are not institutionalized as it is done at the national level, there is a need for other, often more complex mechanism of decision making. New procedures for adopting of regulations that require mandatory consultation, coordination, or other form of participation in the activities of other institutions are emerging.
But the main difference of the institution system of the Union lies in different powers of the institutions and other bodies. Therefore, the European Parliament cannot be regarded as a carrier of the legislative power. The European Parliament does not develop legislative proposals. "Laws" in European communities are prepared by the Commission, and are adopted by the Council. (Treaty on the European union, 1992)
The European Parliament has received certain powers that allow participating in the process of adopting laws, but these powers are of limited nature. Thus, the European Parliament can influence on the drafting of regulations or directives in Commission and in some cases even delay the adoption of law in the Council. However, the European Parliament cannot fully meet the classical model of the national parliament.
One of the peculiarities of the EU institutional system is that the Commission, as an executive authority, has the exclusive right of legislative initiative. The exclusive right of legislative initiative consists of the following elements:
- exclusive right to propose bills to the Council
- Commission's right to make changes to the bill at any time.
- the Council has the right to amend the draft, against which the Commission objected unanimously .
- the right to withdraw the draft prior to its adoption.
The European Parliament and the Council also have a kind of legislative initiative. The European Parliament, acting by a majority, may request the Commission to submit any appropriate proposal on matters which the Parliament considers to be required for the implementation of this Agreement (Article 192 paragraph 2 of the Treaty). The Council may request the Commission to provide it with any appropriate proposals relating to the common foreign and security policy, which are intended to carry out joint actions. (Article 14 paragraph 4 of the Treaty on European Union) .
Abovementioned provisions suggest, that despite the fact that the Commission has the exclusive right to initiate legislation, the legislator gives Parliament and the Council the right for "tips" , enabling the Commission to indicate gaps in the legislation. But it does not limit the exclusive right of the Commission, as it is the Commission that has the right to submit a bill, while the Parliament and the Council may ask the Commission to submit a proposal.
In legislative sphere the powers are distributed, so that the executive and the legislative authorities can take part in decision-making process. It is a positive aspect that the Commission has the exclusive right for legislative initiative. Being the executive body it faces the gaps in the legislature and by the implementation of that exclusive right the Commission gives the chance to the legislative bodies to fix these problems.
Approaches to the place and role of the supranational institutions of EU can be divided into the following groups: the U.S. federal model, which is characterized by strict division of authority between the central and regional governments, institutions and balance system of two independent levels of government - federal ( EU governments ) and local (national governments); the German federal model, which is characterized by the limited powers of the central government , the Swiss confederate model that combines features of the U.S. (formation of Parliament) and German ( in the sphere of competing jurisdiction) models.
In full compliance with the American model, EU Treaties provide exclusive powers to supranational institutions, expanding the rights for control and granting to the Court of Justice the right to impose sanctions on Member States which fail to comply with the decisions of EU institutions.
The ideas of German and Swiss models reflect in the areas of responsibilities which are common to the supranational EU institutions and Member States. Analysis of treaties and EU official documents shows, that in particular areas (economic policy, education, culture, trans-European network of scientific and technical research and defense) supranational institutions complement or support, promote and coordinate the actions of national governments. In a field of competition and in the management of some other EU programs, supranational institutions can influence these processes through administrative measures.
Taking into account the current integration processes, we can say that the first "pillar" of the EU(EU Institutions) is based on the widespread use of the American model of federalism , the second (cooperation in foreign and security policy ) and third (cooperation in the field of Internal Affairs and Justice ) pillars employ the German and Swiss model of federalism .
After analyzing the structure and functions of the EU institutions we conclude, that these bodies are built on the double principle: on the one hand, The European Union has the features of international organization, on the other - it incorporates the national tradition of separation of powers. This is a sign of an international integration organization with the supranational elements.
Control mechanism of EU bodies and Member States is built on the system of their interdependence and mutual influence on each other: the control is carried out by Member States on the EU institutions and bodies of the EU on the Member States. This conclusion follows from the procedure of the adoption of regulations under which the act of the EU cannot be accepted if it has not passed the approval of national parliaments. When developing a common foreign and security policy, governments of the Member States play an active role in that process.
Analysis of the interaction between the institutions and bodies of the EU and the Member States indicates that a peculiar mechanism of cooperation under this interstate union has formed. EU institutions interact with the authorities of the Member States, as well as with other bodies. For example, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council actively interact not only directly (vertically) with the governments and parliaments, but diagonally with each of these bodies, as well as other state bodies.
1. Consolidated versions of the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (2008), Council of the European Union, Brussels