There are 3 main institutions involved in the EU:
- The European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them;
- The Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the individual member countries.
- The European Commission, which represents the interests of the Union as a whole.
This blog post will focus on the Council of European Union and on what role the UK holds in it.
The Council of the European Union (or EU Council) is where Ministers from all 27 Member States meet to:
1) Passes EU laws alongside the European Parliament
2) Coordinate their national foreign policy into the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This is where the European Parliament
has little say.
3) Approves the annual EU budget
4) Signs International agreements on behalf of the Union.
The decisions are mostly made by majority voting. Each Member State has a different number of votes depending on their population. So the UK (alongside France and Germany) has the biggest say with 29 each. In comparison Malta has just 3. Most votes need at least 255 of the possible 345 votes to pass.
Who attends on behalf of the Member State depends on what the subject being discussed is. So for example, if agriculture is on the Agenda, the UK would send the Secretary of State from DEFRA.
The Council is chaired by a different Member State every 6 months. Each Member State usually uses their Presidency to implement their specific vision or goals. The UK next holds the Presidency in July-December 2017. Poland currently holds the Presidency.
The exception to all of the above is Foreign Policy which is chaired by permanent High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. AKA Catherine Ashton at the moment, also a Brit.