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European Union: EU Institutions

Background

Finding EU information is greatly enhanced if the researcher is familiar with the institutions and agencies responsible for creating, interpreting and enforcing it. This guide attempts to delineates the major EU agencies and their responsibilities in order to assist in this process. It also provide links to other guides, EU documentation centers and archives.

The Council

Council of the European Union. The Council of the European Union is the main decision-making institution of the EU, comprised of ministers from each member state. The Council passes laws with the European Parliament, negotiates international agreements, and makes decisions on foreign and economic policy.

Council committees have specific roles in providing co-ordination and expertise in a given area. These include:

Council Register. Includes all non-sensitive documents submitted to the Council or to one of its preparatory bodies which serve as a basis for deliberations. Best overall search engine.

Council Documents. Includes meeting documents where information can be browsed by council configuration (see above) and year.

Council Agreements Database. Database of EU agreements with other countries as well as international organisations.

CASE. (Central Archives Search Engine) provides access to descriptions of the archives of the Council of the European Union. French only.

The Parliament

European Parliament. Parliamentary institution of the EU, directly elected by EU citizens. Together with the Council, it comprises the legislative branch of the EU. Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups irrespective of nationality.

Documents

Documents of the European Parliament are organized as for each Plenary Sitting or session for each Parliament.

  • Debates - Verbatim report of proceedings of each sitting (often referred to by its French abbreviation, CRE).
  • Reports - Adopted by parliamentary committees on a proposal from a rapporteur appointed by committee.
  • Motions for Resolution - Selected statements and questions to the Council and Commission are followed by a vote on a motion for a resolution. Debates on breaches of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law may also. 
  • Texts Adopted - Motions or resolutions and reports tabled by Members and by the parliamentary committees are voted on in plenary, with or without a debate and the final texts are published.
  • Parliamentary Questions - Questions addressed by Members of the European Parliament to other European Union Institutions and bodiess.
  • Written Declarations - Brief texts made bt MEPs relating on a matter falling within the competence of the EU. They are not legally binding. 
  • Public HearingsWorkshops, and studies.

Other useful search engines and finding aids include:

Archives. Archives of Parliamentary documents for previous terms.

Historical Bulletins of the European Parliament.

Legislative Observatory (OEIL). Database for monitoring the EU decision-making process.

The Courts

The EU Courts interpret EU law to make sure it is applied consistentaly across EU member states. They also settle legal disputes between country governments and EU institutions. Individuals and groups may files cases before the Court if they feel their rights have been infringed by an EU institution.

Curia. Serves as the general portal for the EU Court system. Includes information and case law for the following EU courts:

Court of Justice. Ensures that EU legislation is interpreted and applied consistently across EU countries. National courts refer to the Court of Justice to clarify a point concerning the interpretation of EU law.

General Court. Hears actions brought by natural or legal persons against acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the European Union and against regulatory acts or against a failure to act on the part of those institutions, bodies, offices or agencies.

Court of Auditors.  Audits organisations, bodies or companies that handle EU funds.

Civil Service Tribunal. Jurisdiction to hear disputes between the European Union and its servants

Common Foreign and Security Policy Agencies

European Defence Agency (EDA).  Established to improve the EU's defence capabilities especially in the field of crisis management, promote EU armaments cooperation and strengthen the EU defence industrial and technological base.

European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). Set up in 2002 to promote a common security culture for the EU, help develop and project the CFSP, and enrich the strategic debate.

European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC).  Agency dedicated to exploitation and production of information deriving from the analysis of space imagery. It aims at supporting EU’s decision-making in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CSFP).

Decentralized Agencies

EU Decentralised Agencies are bodies set up by an act of secondary legislation to accomplish technical, scientific or managerial tasks specified by EU Public Law.

The Commission

European Commission. The European Commission is the EU institution that proposes legislation to Parliament and the Council, administers and implements Community policies, and enforces Community law.

Directorates General and Services. The Commission is divided into departments known as Directorates-General. Each Directorate-General is supervised by a civil servant who reports to the Commissioner. There are other services and offices in the commission that perform addiotional functions.

Services

See also links to EU Delegation web sites including the EU Delegation of the United States

Financial Bodies

European Central Bank. The ECB is the central bank for Europe's single currency, the euro. The ECB is responsible for maintaining the euro's purchasing power and price stability in the euro area. See the ECB statistical publications.

European Investment Bank. The EU's financing institution. Raises funds for capital projects according with the objectives of the Union.

European Investment Fund. Venture capital and guarantees agency of the EU.

The Regions

Committee of the Regions (CoR). Body of representatives of regional and local governments working to increase participation of European regions in the EU community. Six commissions support the preparation of opinions based on proposals of the European Commission. The draft version of opinions and resolutions are submitted to the Plenary for adoption.

Toad Database. (Transfer of Administrative Documents). Includes CoR resolutions and opinions, documents, commission meeting agendas, etc. For historical documentaiton see the archives.

InfoRegio (Regional Policy). Information on EU action in support of regional development. See also the Projects database.

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.

Council of European Municipalities and Regions.

Research Centers and Archives

Archive of European Integration. From the University of Pittsburgh. Extensive electronic repository and archive for documents on European integration and unification. Includes hundreds of annual reports, conference documents, journals, and EU series documents not available elsewhere.

CORDIS. Community Research and Development Information Service. Gateway for EU sponsored scientific and technical R&D:

European Union Research Gateway. Gateway to news and information about Scientific Research and Technological Development in the European Union. See also the information centre.

The European University Institute.  Provides advanced academic training to Ph.D students and promotes European Community research in history, law, economics, political and social science. 

The Robert Schumann Centre. Center devoted to interdiscplinary research on issues related to the European integration process.

EU Historical Archives. See also the Archisplus historical archives database andEURHISTAR. Includes archives for the OEEC Organisation for European Economic Cooperation

Intergovernmental Conferences (IGC). Archive of major EU treaties resulting from EU Intergovernmental Conferences.

European Commission Archives. Archived documents and websites from the European Commission. Includes documents from conferences, the Bulletin of the EU and more.

History of European Union. History of the EU integration process.

Documentation Centers and Depositories

Delegation to the European Union Commission of the USA.  List of EU depositories in the US along with an excellent subject guide to EU issues.

Europe Near You. Links to European Documentation Centres - Information about the Community at universities and research institutes.

Euro Info Centres. Information and advice to assist businesses on Community issues. 

Other Institutions

European Ombudsman. Mean by which European citizens can seek redress when maladministration occurs within European Union Institutions or bodies. 

European Data Protection Supervisor. Body responsible for the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data.

European Economic and Social Committee. Non-political body that gives representatives of Europe's civil society groups a platform to express opinions on EU issues.

Western European Union. Dormant European defense and security organization established by the Brussels treaty of 1948 and composed of states who are members of both NATO and the EU. 

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