The European Commission
The commission, formed in 1951, is the primary institution for initiating EU policy.
Its policy proposals are issued as regulations – which are EU wide laws which must first be scrutinised by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers; directives – which face the same scrutiny but are end-results, the means by which they are achieved resting with the individual states; and decisions – regarding rights or conditions for an individual or authority in a particular state
The Commission is the combined EU Civil Service and Government. 25,000 staff are employed across more than thirty Directorates-General; each of these is headed by a commissioner from one of the 27 EU member states.
Controversially, none of the EU commissioners are elected; instead they are nominated by the governments of their native countries, thereby not being directly answerable to European citizens.
The Council of Ministers of the European Union
The council is a legislative body that shares power with the European Parliament.
It is the single most powerful EU institution, responsible for debating and deciding EU policy and, jointly with Parliament, EU budgetary power.
It is comprised of ministers from each of the 27 states, their department varying depending on the policy being debated. One country chairs for six months. Decisions are reached either by qualified majority voting or unanimity.
The European Parliament
It is the directly elected EU parliamentary institution made up of MEPs from each member country.
It shares its legislative powers with the Council of Ministers, is consulted on international agreements, approves the EU budget and the appointment of Commissioners. It scrutinises the work of the Commision.
Elections are held every five years and of the current 754 members, seats are awarded proportional to a Party’s share of the vote.