Sunday, October 2, 2011

Decision making process in EU

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THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION


The Commission comprises 0 commissioners who are collectively known as the College of Commissioners. Each member state of the European Union has one commissioner with the exceptions being Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain who have two commissioners each. The commissioners are appointed by their national governments for a term of 5 years. Each commissioner is accompanied by their own cabinet of 6 people whom they appoint themselves.


The president of the Commission, who is chosen by the European Council and must be approved by the European Parliament, leads the College. The president is the representative of the E.U. when dealing with other countries.


The main function of the European Commission is to create proposals for law and policy making. It carries out both executive and administrative functions but most importantly; it is the Guardian of the Treaties that are the source of law in the European Union. The proposals constructed by the Commission are passed to the Council of Ministers who act upon them and assist in the procedure of transforming them into laws.


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The Commission represents the common interests of the Union and its main job is to ensure that a close union remains between the member states.


One of the main problems with this institution is that there is a democratic deficit. All of the commissioners are appointed, as is the president instead of being fairly elected. Its relationships with the other E.U. institutions are not clearly defined and it is losing its power and influence to the European Parliament which is slowly becoming stronger.


On the other hand, the Commission is highly efficient which may be due to its employment of some 4,000 civil servants who assist in the smooth running of the institution.


THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE


The Court is based in Luxemburg and comprises 15 judges and nine advocates general who are all appointed by the member states and serve a renewable term of 6 years. The judges and advocates must be unquestionably independent, highly qualified and experienced in the field of European politics. The judges elect the president of the Court who serves for years, directs all the actions of the court and appoints judge rapporteurs who assist the judges. The advocates general also have assistants in the form of two secretaries each who are generally lawyers or highly qualified solicitors. In total, the Court employs about 750 staff who are mainly of an administrative nature.


The court is made up of two chambers. One chamber considers straightforward cases or direct actions, and the other, the exploration of new laws or preliminary rulings. These chambers of the Court have to follow set procedures when considering cases.


Firstly, the evidence is collected by the judge rapporteur. This is followed by a public hearing which is the only time when the disputing parties have the opportunity to air their opinions. During this type of hearing there is very little cross-examination. The case is then passed to the advocate general who conducts a detailed examination of the legal issues involved. When this is completed, it is then passed back to the judge rapporteur who prepares it to be submitted to the chamber. The chamber then makes their consideration of the case and from this a decision is concluded.


Unfortunately as there are so many steps to these procedures, the time required for each case can be almost two years. The Court handles roughly 500 cases each year, which means that it is a very large time consuming process. Another problem is the expense of the Court as legal fees are very high. Also, there is a very limited right of appeal within the Court.


One positive outcome of the Court is that it has strengthened and clarified European law and extended the applications of European jurisdiction. This has contributed towards the increased rate of integration within Europe and the strengthening of other E.U. institutions. The Court has also reinforced supranational authority in relation to Britain.


THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS (COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION)


There are 15 ministers (one from each member state) within the Council of Ministers. A new president from one of the member states is appointed every 6 months and is decided by a system of rotation. Together, the members and president legislate for the E.U., set objectives and targets, co-ordinate national policies and help to resolve differences. The Council functions on the concerns of national interests rather than those of the Union as a whole.


Decisions made by the Council are done so by qualified majority voting or unanimity. The type of vote required is dependent upon the type of case involved. The majority of cases discussed by the Council require qualified majority votes. There are a total of 87 votes available within the Council, of which 6 votes constitutes a majority. Each member state has a proportional number of votes which are as follows-


Germany, France, Italy, UK - 10 votes


Spain - 8 votes


Belgium, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal - 5 votes


Austria, Sweden - 4 votes


Ireland, Denmark, Finland - votes


Luxemburg - votes


In order to gain majority votes, some countries will lend votes to other countries in return for their support should they require it on another occasion.


The Council mainly acts upon proposals passed to them from the European Commission. These proposals after being researched by the secretariat are passed to the coreper in the form of a working draft. When the draft is approved it is passed to the General Affairs Commission who meet every 6 months in the home country of the president of the Council of Ministers. During these meetings, the approved drafts will be passed.


The main problem with the Council is that it is highly compartmental which means that there is very little unity. This also slows down the filtration of policies through the numerous parties who are part of the system. Also, as the Council works predominantly on a national basis, many arguments arise frequently between nations. On the other hand, it gives the member states the opportunity to air their opinions and play a part in the decision making process. It also encourages co-operation between countries on a non-treaty, non-legal basis.


Until the Council began the roles of the Common Foreign Security Policy and the Justice and Home Affairs policy were quite blurred. The Council has clarified the roles of both these policies.


THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT


There are three basic functions that the Parliament performs - legislate, budget, scrutinise. It holds a great deal of control over the European Commission. The Parliament has to approve of the Commissions president, is responsible for appointing the College of Commissioners, has the right to dismiss the College (by a two-thirds majority vote), has the right to discuss the Commissions annual reports and accounts and it can also appoint standing or investigative committees. Unlike the other institutions, it also has the right to ask questions.


The Parliament hosts 66 elected members (MEPs) who are governed by their national party. These MEPs tend to fall into one of nine different political groups within the Parliament. Each group has a proportional number of votes (similar to the procedure within the Council of Ministers). A president is also elected who directs the activities of the Parliament for a term of two and a half years. Accompanying the president are 14 vice presidents and 5 quaestors. They are collectively known as the Bureau. Twenty standing committees are also established to deal with the relative legislation which applies to them. Each committee has a rapporteur.


The Parliament is the only democratically elected institution within the E.U. As it began with limited power, the Parliament has shown over time that it has the ability to exert influence and has essentially created a job for itself.


Although the Parliament has a great deal of power over the Commission, it has very little over the Council of Ministers and none in the European Council. It also lacks the power to legislate.


In the future, there will be many changes in Europe as new countries line up to join the Union. This will mean changes to the institutions within it, and in particular, changes will have to be made within the Parliament. At present, MEPs tend to be second-rate politicians with very little in the way of job prospects. It is predicted that in the future the European Parliament will attract a new breed of politician, giving it a much-needed source of new ideas. It is also thought that the Parliament will become responsible for the integration of nations as this is foreseen to be the only way in which Europe can become truly united.





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