The Council of the
European Union explained
What I'm Doing for You
My first duty is to represent you. Parliaments produce legislation and the laws we live by. I represent you in the process of creating these laws. My primary input into this process is done through the AGRI (Agriculture and Rural Development Committee) and CONT (Budgetary Control Committee) where I’m a full member, and on the ENVI (Environment, Public Health and Food safety Committee) where I’m a substitute member.
How Can You Have Your Say
Your biggest input is when you vote. Voting is not just about selecting someone to go into a parliament on your behalf. Your vote is an expression of how you see the world and the way you want it to develop. You can also lobby me. Contact me and give me your ideas and your opinion on legislation and other developments.
What Does an MEP Do?
I’m a legislator first and foremost. I’m one of 751 MEPs who, through a process of Committee meetings (where only the Committee MEPs are present) and Plenary sittings (where all 751 MEPs are present), shape the laws we live by. Much of what the European Parliament produces is subsequently ‘transposed’ into Irish Law. This is done by the Oireachtas, made up of the Dáil, the Senate and the President of Ireland. The European Parliament also produces Regulations which are law within Ireland without needing to be transposed.
EU Parliament Explained
The parliament is made up of 751 MEPs who are elected directly by the peoples of Europe. The allocation of MEPs from each Member State is decided by unanimous decision of the European Council and is disproportionate to the population of each Member State, with both a base (six seats) and a ceiling (96 seats). The latest apportionment decision was adopted on June 28, 2013, in the run-up to the accession of Croatia as the EU’s 28th Member State.
EU Commission Explained
The Commission is the ‘executive’, they have the budget and decide on how to spend it. They can be somewhat compared to the Government Ministerial Cabinet in each Member State. It is composed of 28 Commissioners, one being appointed by the government of each of the Member States. This number will reduce to 27 once Brexit is completed. The Commission also initiates the vast majority of legislation.
European Council Explained
The European Council is a gathering of the Heads of State of each of the Member States. So in Ireland’s case the Taoiseach goes to a European Council ‘Summit’ four times a year. These Summits give Europe its overall political direction. The Ministers of each state meet collectively under the Council on a regular basis as well, so – for example – the Irish Minister for Finance will meet up with all the other European Ministers of Finance, the Minister for Agriculture with the equivalents in all other Member States, etc etc. (Note that the European Council should not be confused with the Council of Europe which is the institution that governs the European courts and is made up of 47 Member States from both inside and outside the EU, including Russia.)
How are Decisions Made?
This is a long and complex process. Since reforms introduced after the Lisbon Treaty the Parliament and the Commission produce legislation which is then agreed with the Council under a process known as Co-decision. Co-Decision gives equal power to the European Parliament and the Council. The national parliaments of the Member States have an input into legislation as well. All proposed legislation is sent to each Member State’s parliament right at the start of the process and they in turn send their opinions on proposals back to the Parliament. The following link gives a flow chart on how legislation makes its way through the European institutions. It’s complex...