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Britain and the European Union

Adapted from an FCO publication

Britain is a member of the European Union, which comprises the European Community (EC) and intergovernmental co-operation on foreign and security policy, and on Justice and home affairs, known as 'pillars'

 

The European Union is an association of 25 democratic nations:

 

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Britain is a member of the European Union, which comprises the European Community (EC) and intergovernmental co-operation on foreign and security policy, and on justice and home affairs, known as 'pillars'. The Union is an association of 25 democratic nations: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom


Union Institutions

Council of the European Union

Major policy decisions are taken by the Council of the European Union. Member states are represented by the ministers appropriate to the subject under discussion. Co-operation under the 'pillars' is discussed and approved here. The Presidency of the Council changes at six-monthly intervals; Britain last held it from July to December 1998, and it will hold the office again in the second half of the year 2006. In some cases decisions must be made unanimously; in others they are decided by a majority or a qualified majority, with votes weighted according to each country's size. Community policies are implemented by Regulations, which are legally binding and directly applicable in all member countries, and Directives, which are binding on member states but allow national authorities to decide on means of implementation. Heads of Government of the member countries meet twice a year as the European Council. This takes important decisions and discusses EU policies and world affairs generally.

European Commission

The European Commission is composed of 25 [currently itís 30, but from 1st November , 2004 it will go down to 25] commissioners (two from Britain) who are nominated by member governments and appointed by common agreement. It puts forward policy proposals, executes decisions taken by the Council of the European Union and ensures that Community rules are correctly observed. The Commission is pledged to act independently of national or sectional interests.

 

European Parliament

The European Parliament has 732 directly elected members; Britain has 78 seats. The last election to the Parliament was held in June 2004. The Parliament is consulted on a wide range of issues before the Council takes final decisions. The Commission can be removed from office as a whole by a two thirds majority of all members of the Parliament. The Parliament adopts the Community's annual budget in agreement with the Council. The European Parliament's legislative involvement was increased by the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty.

Court of Justice

The Court of Justice consists of 25 judges and 8 Advocates-General. It interprets and adjudicates on the meaning of the Treaties and on measures taken by the Council of the European Union

and the Commission. It also hears complaints and appeals brought by or against Union institutions, member states or individuals and gives preliminary rulings on cases referred by courts in the member states. It represents the final authority on all aspects of Community law. The Single European Act provided for a Court of First Instance to relieve the Court of Justice of a substantial part of its workload. The court began working in 1989.

Court of Auditors

The Court of Auditors oversees the implementation of the Community's budget. It helps to counter waste and fraud. The Court consists of one member from each state.

 



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