The European Parliament is the only organ of the EU which is directly elected every five years by eligible European voters. The 28 member states
Together with the Council of the European Union the Members of Parliament can pass laws and decide about the budget of the EU. They also have to give their consent to several decisions, for example when deciding on the acceptance of a new state as a member of the EU. Moreover, the European Parliament supervises the actions of the European Commission and elects their president. EU citizens get to submit petitions which are dealt with in the European Parliament.
The European Commission is made up of 27 commissioners and their president. The 28 member states each have one commissioner. The commissioners are proposed by their respective national governments for a term of five years. The European Parliament has to agree to these proposals before the commissioners can be appointed. Every commissioner is responsible for a particular political field of duty. These fields of duty are called Directorate General. The staff of the various Directorates General are involved in the Commission’s perpetual tasks.
It is the Commission’s duty to ensure that the decisions by the Council of the European Union and European Parliament are enforced across the EU. This is why the Commission is also called the “Guardian of the Treaties”. In case a member state fails to obey the law, the Commission may admonish the state or impose fines. Moreover, the Commission is the only organ of the EU which is entitled to propose legislation to the European Parliament or to the Council of the European Union.
The Council of the European Union is also called EU Council of Ministers because it is composed of all ministers with their specific remits. The ministers meet in different group compositions depending on the particular political subject they want to address. For example, the Ministers of Finances or the Ministers of Agriculture meet in specific council sessions. Thus, there are no set members who participate in all sessions. The presidency of the Council changes every six month and is hold by one member state. The sessions are open to public.
The Council of the European Union is authorised to pass or change laws. To do so, the European Parliament’s approval is required in some cases. Together, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament also approve the EU budget. Moreover, the Council of the European Union is responsible for developing the EU’s foreign affairs and its security policy. The Council of the European Union is also in charge of concluding new agreements between the EU and other countries.
The European Council is made up of the Heads of State and Government of the 28 member states and the president of the European Commission as well as the president of the European Parliament. The European Council usually meets four times a year at so called summits. The president of the European Council is elected for a term of two and a half years. The president is not eligible to vote in the Council, but they chair the meetings and they represent the EU abroad. The president is not allowed to execute a national office.
Although the European Council is not authorised to pass laws, it sets the political objectives of the EU. That is to say, the European Council sets the agenda for current political issues, such as inner security, international relations or migration. Additionally, the European Council takes concrete decisions. For example, it suggests the European Commission’s Presidential candidates. The European Commission’s President is then elected by the European Parliament.