The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political partnership between 28 European countries that together cover much of the continent. It was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict. The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, a huge single market has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential. It is based on the rule of law: everything that it does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by all member countries. These binding agreements set out the EU's goals in its many areas of activity.
European Union (EU) Institutions
EU has unique institutional set-up that are set by the European Council, which brings together national and EU-level leaders directly elected MEPs represent European citizens in the European Parliament the interests of the EU as a whole are promoted by the European Commission, whose members are appointed by national governments defend their own country's national interests in the Council of the European Union. The European Council sets the EU's overall political direction – but has no powers to pass laws. Led by its President – currently Donald Tusk – and comprising national heads of state or government and the President of the Commission, it meets for a few days at a time at least twice every 6 months.
There are 3 main institutions involved in EU legislation: the European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them; the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the individual member countries. The Presidency of the Council is shared by the member states on a rotating basis. The European Commission, which represents the interests of the Union as a whole.
Together, these three institutions produce through the "Ordinary Legislative Procedure" (ex "co-decision") the policies and laws that apply throughout the EU. In principle, the Commission proposes new laws, and the Parliament and Council adopt them. The Commission and the member countries then implement them, and the Commission ensures that the laws are properly applied and implemented.
Agencies and EU Bodies
EU agencies are distinct bodies from the EU institutions – separate legal entities set up to perform specific tasks under EU law. There are over 40 agencies, divided into 5 groups:
• Decentralised Agencies: It carries out technical, scientific or managerial tasks that help the EU institutions make and implement policies. They also support cooperation between the EU and national governments by pooling technical and specialist expertise from both the EU institutions and national authorities. Decentralised agencies are set up for an indefinite period and are located across the EU.
• Agencies under Common Security and Defence Policy: It has been set up to carry out very specific technical, scientific and management tasks within the framework of European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
• Executive Agencies: These agencies help the European Commission manage EU programmes. They are set up for a fixed period and must be based in the same location as the Commission (either Brussels or Luxembourg).
• EURATOM Agencies and Bodies: These were created to support the aims of the European Atomic Energy Community Treaty (EURATOM), which are to: coordinate national nuclear research programmes, for peaceful purposes provide knowledge, infrastructure and funding for nuclear energy ensure sufficient and secure supplies of nuclear energy.
• European Institute for Innovation and Technology: The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) – based in Hungary – is an independent EU body which seeks to promote Europe’s ability to develop new technologies, by pooling its best scientific, business and education resources.