Objectives To understand what happens in the Council, Commission and Parliament To understand what role the European Court of Justice plays in the European Union
Starter Complete the EU Quiz
The Commission The Commission is composed of 27 members, called Commissioners. They are appointed by the member states, subject to approval by the European Parliament. They remain as representatives for 5 years.
The Commission The Commissioners do not represent their own countries: they are independent, and their role is to represent the interests of the EU overall. Catherine Ashton
The Commission Its Role:
Proposes policy and presents draft legislation for the Council
Guardian of the Treaties
Ensures member states uphold EU law
Negotiates trade agreements
Draws up the annual draft budget for the EU
The Commission Reputation was seriously damaged in 1999: The main criticisms of the report included:
over-reliance on external advisers for administrative and technical support, which led to very worrying abnormalities
insufficient control of the agricultural and regional aid funds - which account for 80% of the EU's budget - whose complexity makes them "vulnerable to fraud"
personnel policies that encourage favouritism by national preference and a reluctance to discipline under-performers.
European Council Who sits on the council? The heads of state from each Member State. The Member States take it in turn to provide the President of the Council for a period of 6 months. What is their role? Main decision making body of the EU. How do they operate? Meet twice a year at Summit and discuss issues of policy.
Council of Ministers Represents the interest of individual member states. In each meeting the members, one from each country, are national government ministers chosen according to the subject under discussion. The Council meets most weeks to agree legislation and policy.
European Parliament Composed of 785 members (MEP’s), who are directly elected in their own countries. Elections are held every 5 years. They take part in the legislative process and plays a variety of roles in connection with other institutions.
European Parliament It acts as a supervisor over the Commission. Parliament reports on the Council 3 times a year, and the President of the Council is obliged to address the Parliament once a year, followed by a debate. Parliament appoints an Ombudsman, who investigates complaints of maladministration by EU institutions from individuals and MEP’s.
European Court of Justice
European Court of Justice The ECJ supervises the uniform application of EU law throughout the member states, and therefore can create case law. It is separate to the European Court of Human Rights, which deals with alleged breaches of human rights by countries who are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights.
European Court of Justice It sits in Luxemburg. It has 27 judges who are appointed by agreement among member states, for a period of 6 years. The judges are assisted by 8 Advocates General, who produce opinions on the cases assigned to them, indicating the issues raised and suggesting conclusions.
European Court of Justice Most cases are heard in plenary session, that is with all the judges sitting together. Only one judgement will be delivered, giving no indication of the extent of agreement between the judges. It can be hard to see the ratio decidendi. Since 1989, the ECJ has been assisted by the new Court of First Instance to deal with economic law cases.
Judicial Role of the ECJ The ECJ hears cases of dispute between the parties, which fall into 2 categories: proceedings against member states, and proceedings against European institutions. Commission European Council Council of Ministers European Union European Court of Justice European Parliament
Judicial Role of the ECJ Re Tachographs: EC Commission v UK (1979) The ECJ upheld a complaint against the UK for failing to implement a European regulation making it compulsory for lorries used to carry dangerous goods to be fitted with tachographs (devices used to record the speed and distance travelled, with the aim of preventing lorry drivers from speeding, or from driving for longer than the permitted number of hours). The Commission usually gives the member state the opportunity to put things right before bringing the case to the ECJ
Judicial Role of the ECJ United Kingdom v Council of the European Union (1996) The UK sought to have the Directive on the 48-hour working week annulled on the basis that it had been unlawfully adopted by the Council. The application was unsuccessful.
Supervisory Role Article 234 of the Treaty of Rome Provides that any court or tribunal in a member state may refer a question on EU law to the ECJ if it considers that “a decision on that question is necessary to enable it to give judgment”. This makes sure that the law is interpreted the same throughout Europe.
Supervisory Role Customs and Excise Commissioners v APS Samex (1983) Bingham J pointed out that, in interpreting European Law, the Court of Justice has certain advantages over national courts; it can take a panoramic view of the whole of European law, compare the legislation as it is written in different member states’ languages, and it is experienced in the purposive approach to interpretation for which European legislation was designed.
Supervisory Role R v International Stock Exchange, ex parte Else 1993) The same judge said that if, once the facts have been found, it is clear that an issue of European law is vital to a court’s final decision, that court should normally make an Art.234 referral: English courts should only decide such issues without referral if they have real confidence that they can do so correctly, without the help of the ECJ.
Supervisory Role Marshall v Southampton and South West Hampshire Area Health Authority (1986) Miss Marshall, a dietitian, was compulsory retired by the Authority from her job when she was 62, although she wished to continue until she was 65. It was the Authority’s policy that the normal retiring age for its employees was the age at which state retirement pensions became payable. She claimed the Authority was discriminating against women as it required women to retire before men. It was argued to be contrary to a Council directive providing for equal treatment of men and women. The national court made reference to the ECJ asking for directions. The ECJ found that there was a conflict with UK law, and the UK later changed its legislation to conform.