A word about Sovereignty
Swindon for Europe offers you this simple analysis.
In the same way that other institutions that the UK participates in, such as the United Nations and NATO, the European Union is a supra-national body, meaning that it has power and influence that transcends national boundaries and governments.
Whilst in most respects the member states of the EU, like the UK, have sovereignty over their own affairs, in certain agreed areas they hand authority to the EU in order to maintain a consistent approach to law and order that is to everyone’s benefit. Anything outside of the agreed remit of the EU is purely the responsibility of the member nation.
Beyond that, it is possible for individual countries to opt-out of certain agreements:
Security, Defence, Citizenship, Police & Justice: Denmark has opted out of certain provisions.
Schengen (abolition of border controls: Denmark, Ireland & UK have opted out.
European & Monetary Union (Euro): Denmark & UK have opted out. Certain other countries have not yet met the criteria to adopt the Euro.
Freedom, Security & Justice: Denmark, Ireland & UK have opted out of certain provisions.
Charter of Fundamental Rights: Poland & UK have opted out of certain provisions.
The European Parliament
The European Parliament shares the legislative and budgetary authority of the Union with the Council of the European Union . Its 751 members are elected every five years by proportional representation and sit according to political allegiance. They represent nearly 500 million citizens (the world’s second largest democratic electorate). It has been said that its democratic nature and growing powers have made it one of the most powerful legislatures in the world.
The European Council
The European Council is the group of heads of state or government of the EU member states. It meets four times a year to define the Union’s policy agenda and give impetus to integration. It is the highest political body of the European Union and the current president is Donald Tusk.
The Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union (aka the Council of Ministers or the Council) is a body holding legislative and some limited executive powers and is the main decision making body of the Union. It is separate from the European Council, which is a similar body, but is composed of national leaders. Its presidency rotates between the member states every six months.
The Council is composed of twenty-eight national ministers (one per state). However the Council meets in various forms depending upon the topic. For example, if agriculture is being discussed, the Council will be composed of each national minister for agriculture. They represent their governments and are accountable to their national political systems. Votes are taken either by majority or unanimity with votes allocated according to population. In these various forms they share the legislative and budgetary power of the Parliament, and also lead the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The European Commission
The European Commission is the executive arm of the Union. It is a body composed of one appointee from each state, but is designed to be independent of national interests. The body is responsible for drafting all law of the European Union and has the ability to propose new laws. It also deals with the day-to-day running of the Union and has the duty of upholding the law and treaties.
The Commission is led by a President who is nominated by the European Council and approved by Parliament. The remaining 27 Commissioners are nominated by member-states, in consultation with the President, and have their portfolios assigned by the President. The Council then adopts this list of nominee-Commissioners. The current President is Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Court of Justice of the European Union
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the EU’s judicial branch. It is responsible for interpreting EU law and treaties.
The European Central Bank
The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank for the eurozone (the states which have adopted the euro) and thus controls monetary policy in that area. It is at the centre of the European System of Central Banks which comprises all EU national banks. The bank is governed by a board of national bank governors and a President.
The European Court of Auditors
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) ensures that taxpayer funds from the budget of the European Union have been correctly spent. The court provides an audit report for each financial year to the Council and Parliament. The Parliament uses this to decide whether to approve the Commission’s handling of the budget. The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions.