The Institutions of the European Union

Bernard Owen
The amount of European Union (EU) laws that are adopted later by the national parliaments is considerable. In France, the far right pretends that 80 % of French laws are a result of European Directives. If we go back to the origin of the European community, Jacques Delors announced in February 1987 that 30 % of Belgian laws came from European directives and that in 10 years time the figure would be 60 %. But using percentages is not a fair way of portraying the reality of EU competence.

The Union has enlarged its competences. The European Union has 28 members. As far as France is concerned, the Web Site of that country’s Ministry of Justice shows us that 50 % of the new laws come from the Union.

We have to keep in mind that laws cover quite a number of different areas. The text that forbids the death penalty holds in one line, whereas the law dealing with the construction of elevators has 10 pages. Our information comes from Jean Quatremer, who is a journalist at “Libération”. In one year, of the about 100 laws adopted in France, 25 % have European basis.

In the beginning of 2007, 711 directives and 5 293 rules were applied. These figures deal with the fixing of technical norms. For example, the size of the cages in which chickens are transported…

Another author, Jean Louis Bourlanges, estimates that 90 to 98 % of the financing of projects are national. He also points out to the fact that European laws cover matters that are far from being aon issues of “national sovereignty”. (This author spent 20 years in the European Parliament).

There are summaries of the European Treaty but they do not show the complexity of the document which has 200 pages.

Title I
Art. 1 “The Union coordinates the political issues of the member States so as to attain the aims and to act on the community within the competences which they have been given”.

Art. 3 “The Union aims to promote peace, its values and the happiness of the people”.

Art. 1 – 7 “The Union has legal authority (which the OSCE does not have).

Title I – 20
“The European Parliament has through the council, legal, financial powers. It elects the chairman of the commission.

Art. 1 – 21 The council of Europe. It has no legal competence
– Advises the European Union, decides and organizes the way it evolves

– It defines its general attitudes and the general political priorities.

Art. 2 – The council is made up of
– The heads of State or the prime ministers of the member States.

– Its own chairperson.
– The President of the commission.
– The Minister of Foreign Affairs participates in the work
Art. 3 – The council meets every three months
– The chairperson decides upon the date. Whenever useful the meeting can invite the necessary persons.

– The chairman can make a call for a very special meeting
– The council makes consensual decisions except for cases found in the Constitution.

Art. 1 – 22 – The President of European council
– The council elects its President
– The President deals, at his level, with questions having to do with foreign policy and security without prejudice to the Minister’s competences.

The council of Ministers
– It deals with the European parliament on legal questions and the budget

– It It defines political attitudes and coordinates.

– It is made up of a representative of each member State

– – these members have the authority to engage their own government. He or she has the right to vote.

Art. 1 – 24 – The council of Ministers
– The minister has a seat in different formations

– He or she is a advisor who assures the coherence of the whole union

– Prepares the meetings of the European council

– Does the follow-up of the meetings with the President of the European Council and the Commission.

– The Council of Foreign Affairs defines the foreign policy of the Union decided by the European Council
– The European Council adopts (by a qualified majority) European decisions from different parts of the council

– The qualified majority of the council of Europe is represented by the following :
At least 50 % of the members of the council
The 50 % must include at least 15 members representing 65 % of the population of the Union.

To conclude we must say that if we take into account the United States and the new Russian Federation, Europe is not organized to play an important role in international politics. Europe cannot project its economic power because Europe has in Brussels or elsewhere too many institutions that have to work together, but which get bogged down on details and no clear decision center.

Europe is composed of States that have its own institutions that do not provide for political stability and unity. For example, some States like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Finland have had since 1945 a total of four years without governments that do not have the backing of majority in parliament.

For details …. Please take a look at the book “Proportional Western Europe : the failure of governance” published in English by Palgrave – Mac Millan – November 2013.