EU Institutions – A Brief Guide

The European Union has a number of institutions that are decision-making bodies, most of which were created with the formation of the European Community in 1958. Various EU institutions are briefly discussed below:


European Parliament – Represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them. It has legislative, supervisory, and budgetary responsibilities. It was established in 1952 as the “Common Assembly” of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and it was changed in 1962 to the “European Parliament” (EP). Furthermore, meetings occur in Strasbourg, Brussels, and Luxembourg.


European Council – It defines the general political direction and priorities of the EU, but has no formal law-making powers. It was established in 1974 and is located in Brussels. It comprises the heads of member state, along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. The European Council’s current President is Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland.


Council of the European Union – Represents the government ministers of the members states. Thus, it acts as the voice of EU member governments, it adopts EU laws, and coordinates EU policies. Each EU country, currently Austria, holds the presidency for a 6-month period. It was established in 1958 and is located in Brussels.


European Commission – Represents the interests of the EU as a whole by proposing and enforcing legislation in addition to implementing policies and the EU budget. The languages of the Commission are English, French, and German. Jean-Claude Juncker, a Luxembourgish politician, serves as the President of the Commission since 2014. The European Commission was established in 1958 and is located in Brussels.


Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – It is a supranational institution that ensures that EU law is interpreted, applied, and abided by the same way in every EU country and institution. It was established in 1952 and is located in Luxembourg. CJEU comprises of two major courts: the Court of Justice, which hears applications from national courts, and the General Court, which primarily hears requests from individuals and companies. The Court of Justice consists of one judge from each EU member country, as well as 11 advocates general. The General Court is made up of 47 judges, which is to be increased to 56 in 2019. The working language of the Court is French.


European Central Bank (ECB) – Manages the euro, keeps prices stable, and conducts EU economic & monetary policy within the Eurozone. It was established in 1998 and is located in Frankfurt. Currently, ECB’s President is Mario Draghi, the former governor of the Bank of Italy and former member of the World Bank.


European Court of Auditors (ECA) – Ensures that EU funds are collected and used correctly, and helps improve EU financial management. In other words, the ECA’s role, which looks after the interests of the EU taxpayer, is to check if the budget of the European Union has been implemented correctly and spent legally. It was established in 1977 and is located in Luxembourg.


European External Action Service (EEAS) – Manages the EU’s diplomatic relations with other countries outside the bloc, and conducts EU foreign & security policy. Federica Maria Mogherini, an Italian politician, serves as the High Representative of the EEAS. It was established in 2011 and is located in Brussels.


European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) – Advisory body representing workers’ and employers’ organisations and other interest groups. It was established in 1957 and is located in Brussels.


European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – Advisory body representing Europe’s regional and local authorities. It was established in 1994 and is located in Brussels.


European Investment Bank (EIB) – Provides funding for projects that help to achieve EU aims (e.g. urban development, energy, transport, etc.), both within and outside the EU (90% of loans are made within the EU). Member states set EIB’s policy goals and oversee the two decision-making bodies: the board of governors and the board of directors. EIB makes loans above € 25 million directly, making it the world’s largest international public lending institution. Furthermore, none of the money comes from the EU budget. The European Investment Bank was established in 1958 and is located in Luxembourg.


European Ombudsman – Investigates complaints against EU institutions, bodies, offices & agencies. So, any EU citizen or entity may appeal the Ombudsman to investigate an EU institution on grounds of administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, etc. It was established in 1995 and is located in Strasbourg.


European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) – Ensures that EU institutions and bodies respect people’s right to privacy when processing their personal data. It was established in 2004 and is located in Brussels.


Other inter-institutional bodies are:

Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), European School of Administration, European Personnel Selection Office, Publications Office.



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