The European Union |
The European Union is ostensibly a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. Its de facto capital is Brussels, Belgium.
Member States have set up common institutions to which they delegate some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at a European level.
The European Union consists of seven institutions and 44 distinct and independent agencies. Another nine independent bodies exist with mainly supplementary and consultative functions. They are, the Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the European Data Protection Supervisor, the European Ombudsman, the Publications Office, the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Administrative School, the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) and the European Investment Bank.
Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union, which entered into force in 2009, established the seven principal decision-making institutions of the European Union:
1. The Court of Justice
2. The European Commission
3. The European Council
4. The Council of the European Union (or "Council of Ministers"; considered the most powerful of the seven).
5. The European Central Bank
6. The Court of Auditors and
7. The European Parliament.
Only three of the above institutions hold executive and legislative power: The Council of the European Union represents governments, the Parliament represents citizens and the Commission represents the "European interest".
The historical roots of the European Union lie in the Second World War. The idea of European integration was conceived to prevent such inter-regional strife and destruction from ever happening again. It was first proposed by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in a speech on May 9, 1950, a date celebrated annually as Europe Day.