The European Union (originally called the European Economic Community) now brings together 28 countries with a total population of around half a billion people. Formed in 1957, it was set up in the aftermath of the Second World War to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Europe. For more information, see the EU's official Europa site.
Seven EU institutions:
Decentralised agencies and other bodies:
The Commission has four main roles:
It is made up of one Commissioner per Member State, appointed for 5 years. The current President is the Portuguese José Manuel Durão Barroso and the current Commission's term of office runs until 2014. The Commissioners are assisted by over 30 Directorates General (DGs) and Services, each headed by a Director General.
Also known as the Council of Ministers, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU, bringing together the governments of the Member States. There are 10 Council configurations where, depending on the issue on the agenda, each country will be represented by the Minister responsible for that subject (foreign affairs, agriculture, environment, etc).
Since the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, the Foreign Affairs Council is chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. The High Representative is assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS).
The Council exercises legislative and budgetary tasks with the European Parliament.
Each Member State holds the Presidency of the EU for 6 months:
|Year||First half-year||Second half-year|
The European Council brings together the Heads of State and Government of the 28 Member States. It gives the EU its political direction and sets its priorities. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council became a full EU institution. Herman Van Rompuy was elected as President. He chairs European Council meetings and drives forward its work on a continuous basis. He also ensures the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The European Parliament is made up of 766 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected every 5 years. It has 3 main roles:
The Parliament currently has seven political groups, as well as some 'non-attached' Members, and 20 committees dealing with particular policy fields.
It also has 40 delegations responsible for relations with countries and regions outside the EU. One of these is responsible for relations with Canada, which regularly meets with Canadian parliamentarians in Brussels and Canada. One of the oldest Delegations established by the European Parliament (first meeting in March 1975), its meetings have generally underlined the excellent state of relations between the EU and Canada.
The Court of Justice is made up of one judge from each EU country. It ensures compliance with Community law by making sure that EU legislation is interpreted and applied in the same way in each Member States and has the power to settle legal disputes between Member States, EU institutions, businesses and individuals.
The Court of Auditors checks that all the European Union's revenue has been received and all its expenditure incurred in a lawful and regular manner and that the EU budget has been managed soundly. It has one member from each EU country, appointed for a term of six years.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank for Europe's single currency, the euro. Its main task is to maintain the euro's purchasing power and thus price stability in the euro area.
These institutions are assisted by 2 advisory bodies: