KEY EU INSTITUTIONS
The main institutions of the European Union are the European Council, European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. The EU’s broad priorities are set by the European Council, which brings together national and EU-level leaders; The Parliament consists of directly elected MEPs representing European citizens; the Commission promotes the interests of the EU as a whole, and members of the Commission are appointed by national governments; and governments defend their own countries’ national interests in the Council of the European Union.
The European Council defines the Union’s policy agenda and gives impetus to integration, and has been described as the highest political body of the European Union.
The European Parliament is the only institution directly elected by EU citizens. It shares decision-making power with the Council on most internal market policies and has budget approval powers.
The European Commission, currently consisting of one Commissioner from each member state and led by a President, is the Union’s executive body and public service. It shares policy and decision-making powers with the member states through the European Council and with the European Parliament and is responsible for budget management.
The Council of the European Union is the pre-eminent decision-making body. It provides a forum for member state representatives to meet regularly at all levels, including ministers and heads of government/state and rotates between member states on a six-monthly basis.
Presidency of the Council of the European Union
The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During this 6-month period, the presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council, helping to ensure the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council.
Member states holding the presidency work together closely in groups of three, called ‘trios’. This system was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The trio sets long-term goals and prepares a common agenda determining the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council over an 18 month period. On the basis of this programme, each of the three countries prepares its own more detailed 6-month programme.
The current trio is made up of the presidencies of the Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta.