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The European Union Essay

1693 words - 7 pages

The European Union (EU) was established in order to prevent the horrors of modern warfare, experienced by most of Europe during the World Wars of the 20th century, from ever ensuing again, by aiming to create an environment of trust with the countries of Europe cooperating in areas such as commerce, research and trade (Adams, 2001). The EU has evolved into an economic, trade, political and monetary alliance between twenty-eight European Member States. While not all Member States are in monetary union (i.e. share the currency of the euro), those that are form the ‘Euro-zone’ (Dinan, 2006). The EU can pass a number of types of legislation, with a regulation, act, or law, being the most ...view middle of the document...

In order to be adopted, a proposal must be approved by a majority of Member States (qualified majority voting), with votes reflecting at least 62% of the total population of the community. Votes are allocated according to a country’s population size. However, some of the smaller states, such as the UK, receive more votes than is actually justified by population size.

The European Commission is the Executive (governmental) body of the EU, initiating legislative proposals and also managing the EU’s budget (Europa, 2007). Each commission operates for a five-year period, with meetings taking place in Brussels every Wednesday. The Commission consists of a President of the Commission and twenty-eight commissioners (some vice presidents). Employees of the Commission are organised according to department (Directorates-General) and answer to a Commissioner. The Commission exists in order to represent the interests of the whole of the EU (thus arguably the whole of Europe), as opposed to individual Member States. The Commission represents the EU on a global basis and is the main participant in negotiations in areas such as trade. The appointment of Commissioners is the responsibility of the Parliament, with all having previously assumed senior positions in politics in their own country, usually within its national government. Proposals are drafted by the senior civil servant (Director-General. A proposal may be adopted if more than half of the Commissioners decide to adopt it. Once agreed, all Commissioners must give their unconditional support – similar to the collective responsibility held by the Scottish executives and the UK. The Commission works closely with both national and regional governments, a number of interest groups and also the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (advisory EU bodies). The Commission aims to ensure the application of EU law in all Member States. If it observes that legal obligations are not being met, it may initiate an infringement procedure (legal process) against the offending state. Failure to comply within a given deadline will result in referral of the matter of the Court of Justice – a body of the EU which has the power to impose various penalties, such as fines.

The main role of the EU Parliament is to legislate, deciding on the scope and shape of new laws, usually in conjunction with the Council (Europa, 2007). The Parliament also has the power to reject or adopt the budget. EU citizens democratically elect MEPs (Members of European Parliament) every five years. MEPs should therefore represent and express their views in Europe and worldwide. All registered EU citizens are entitled to vote for MEPs. Therefore, European law is considered to be democratically legitimate. The number of votes allocated to each country is determined by population size. The proceedings of the Parliament are chaired by the President, whose role is similar to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons...

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