EU Institutions: Composition and Competences

The European Union (EU), a geopolitical entity of 28 countries, is a unique economic and political association globally.

An internal system of representative democracy governs it, and its institutions are seven: 


• The European Parliament. It represents the EU citizens and, together with the Council, exercise the legislative power.


The European Council is the Union’s main decision-making body, and its role is to give the EU political impetus on critical issues and set the EU’s overall priorities. The Council exercises functions of general political orientation and external representation and appoints the heads of the high constitutional institutions


• The Council represents the governments of each of the Member States, which share its Presidency on a rotating basis.


• The European Commission represents the common interest of the EU and is the central executive body. It applies Union law, monitors its compliance and implements its policies, and it is solely responsible for the legislative initiative before Parliament and the Commission. 


• The Court of Justice of the European Union exercises the supreme jurisdictional tasks in the Community legal system.


• The European Court of Auditors supervises and controls community finances and funds’ proper functioning and administration. 


• The European Central Bank directs and implements the single monetary policy of the euro area. 






Together with the representatives of EU governments in the Council, the Parliament is responsible for adopting EU legislation and the annual EU budget.




  • The President

The President is elected for a renewable term of two and a half years, i.e. half the lifetime of a Parliament. The President represents the European Parliament vis-à-vis the outside world and its relations with the other EU institutions.


  •  The Members

The European Parliament comprises 705 Members elected by direct universal suffrage for five years in the 27 Member States of the enlarged European Union. 


  •   The political groups

The Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups organised by political affiliation. There are currently seven political groups in the European Parliament.


Twenty-three members are needed to form a political group, and at least one-quarter of the Member States must be represented within the group. 


  • Committees

The Committees do the preparatory work for Parliament’s plenary sittings. A committee consists of between 25 and 81 MEPs. The Members are divided up among several specialised standing committees. 





The European Council defines the EU’s overall political direction and priorities by setting the EU’s policy agenda.



The members of the European Council are:

  •       The European Council President.


In addition to presiding and promoting the work of the European Council, the President represents the EU externally in the Common Foreign and Security policy.


  •    The heads of state or government of the 27 EU member states


  •     The President of the European Commission.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also participates in European Council meetings when foreign affairs issues are discussed.







The Council:


  • Negotiates and adopts legislative acts in most cases together with the European Parliament; 


  • coordinates Member States’ policies in specific fields; 


  •  develops the EU’s standard foreign and security policy;


  • Concludes International agreements, and


  • Adopts the EU budget together with the Parliament. 




  •   Presidency 


The Presidency of the Council is a rotating system among the EU Member States every six months. 


Member states holding the Presidency work together in groups of three, called ‘trios’. They prepare a common agenda determining the topics and significant issues the Council will address over 18 months.


Now, the trio is made up of the presidencies of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. 






The European Commission:


  • develops the EU’s overall strategy designs and implement EU policies;


  • proposes and enforces the law and makes sure rules are correctly implemented, evaluated and updated;


  • defends the interests of the Union and its citizens;


  • presents and implements the EU budget and manages EU funding programmes, and


  • designs the European development policy and delivers aid throughout the world.




The Commission is steered by a group of 27 Commissioners (the College) who decide on the Commission’s political and strategic direction, under the law of the President of the Commission,  who decides who is responsible for each policy.


The College of Commissioners comprises the President of the Commission, eight Vice-Presidents, including three Executive Vice-Presidents, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and 18 Commissioners, each of whom is responsible for a portfolio.






The rule of the European Court of Justice is to ensure that “the law is observed” “in the interpretation and application” of the EU Treaties and the uniform interpretation of the EU law.


The Court of Justice of the European Union:


  • reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union;


  • ensures that the Member States comply with obligations under the Treaties, and


  • interprets European Union law at the request of the national courts and tribunals.




The Court of Justice of the European Union consists of two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court.


  •  The Court of Justice


The Court of Justice is composed of 27 Judges and 11 Advocates General. The Judges and Advocates General are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States.


The Court may sit as a full court, in a Grand Chamber of 15 Judges or in Chambers of three or five Judges.


The Court of Justice has jurisdiction on the references for a preliminary ruling, actions for failure to fulfil obligations, actions for annulment against a Regulation, Directive or Decision adopted by an institution, body, office or agency of the European Union or when a Member State brought that action against the European Parliament and the Council, in the rest of the cases the competition is the General Court, actions for failure to act and appeals.


  •      The General Court 


The General Court is made up of two judges from each Member State.


It has Chambers of five or three Judges or, in some cases, as a single Judge. Sometimes the Chamber of fifteen Judges is used when the patient has a legal complexity or importance.


Since the Court of Justice has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and seek actions brought by a Member State against the European Parliament or the Council, the General Court hears, at first instance, all other such activities, in particular those brought by individuals and those obtained by a Member State against the Commission.


The TFEU provides that the General Court has jurisdiction to hear and tribunal at first instance the actions referred to in Articles 263, 265, 268, 270 and 272 TFEU.


The decisions of the General Court may, within two months, be subject to an appeal before the Court of Justice, limited to points of law.






The Court of Auditors is responsible for monitoring the Union’s revenue and expenditure implementation and ensuring sound financial management in the EU.


The European Court of Auditors is responsible for:


  • examine the accounts of all revenue and expenditure of the Union and the accounts of all income and spending of anybody, agency or agency set up by the Union in so far as the constituent act of that body or agency does not preclude such examination;


  • submit to the European Parliament and the Council a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the regularity and legality of the transactions concerned, which shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union, and


  • Ensure sound financial management.



The European Court of Auditors is composed of one national of each Member State appointed by the Council for a renewable period of six years.

The members of the European Court of Auditors elect a President for a period of three years.






The European Central Bank is the Central Bank of the 19 European Union countries that have adopted the euro, that manages the euro and frames and implements EU economic & monetary policy, sets the interest rates, supervises the financial markets and Institutions and controls the safety of the European Banking System, authorises the production of euro banknotes and monitors the price trends and reviews the price stability.




  •    President


The President of the European Central Bank represents the Bank at high-level EU and international meetings.


  •          Governing Council 


It is the main decision-making body. Consists of the Executive Board member and the governors of the central banks from the eurozone countries. 


  •  Executive Board 


It handles the day-to-day running of the Bank.


It consists of the European Central Bank President and Vice-President and four other members appointed for 8-year terms by the leaders of the eurozone countries. 


  •     General Council is in charge of coordination and the advisory role. 


It consists of the President of the Bank and Vice-President, and the governors of the central banks from all EU countries.







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