The Council is a single body, but for reasons relating to the organisation of its work, it meets – according to the subject being discussed – in different "configurations", which are attended by the Ministers from the Member States and the European Commissioners responsible for the areas concerned. Regardless of the Council configuration that adopts a decision, that decision is always a Council decision and no mention is made of the configuration. The Council's seat is in Brussels.
Not to be confused with the Council of the European Union, the European Council defines the political direction and priorities of the European Union. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on December 1, 2009 the European Council formally became an institution of the European Union.
The European Council does not exercise legislative power. However, because it is formed of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, together with its President and the President of the Commission, it does exercise great political power.
The European Parliament is the only directly-elected body of the European Union, with 736 members. They are elected once every five years by voters right across the 27 Member States of the European Union on behalf of its 500 million citizens. Parliament plays an active role in drafting legislation which has an impact on the daily lives of its citizens. Parliament also has joint power with the Council over the annual budget of the European Union.
The European Commission is the EU's executive body. It represents and upholds the interests of Europe as a whole. It drafts proposals for new European laws. It manages the day-to-day business of implementing EU policies and spending EU funds. The Commission also makes sure that everyone abides by the European treaties and laws.
The Court of Justice is composed of 27 Judges and eight Advocates General, and its seat is in Luxembourg. The Court constitutes the judicial authority of the European Union and, in cooperation with the courts and tribunals of the Member States, it ensures the uniform application and interpretation of European Union law.
Its mission is to ensure that "the law is observed" "in the interpretation and application" of the Treaties. The Court reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union; ensures that the Member States comply with obligations under the Treaties; and interprets European Union law at the request of the national courts and tribunals.
As external auditor, it contributes to improving EU financial management and acts as the independent guardian of the financial interests of the citizens of the Union. The Court also oversees the implementation of the EU budget.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body that gives representatives of Europe's socio-occupational interest groups, and others, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the larger institutions - the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union's decision-making process.
The 344 members of the EESC are drawn from economic and social interest groups in Europe. Members are nominated by national governments and appointed by the Council of the European Union for a renewable 4-year term of office. They belong to one of three groups:
3. Various Interests
Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom have 24 members each; Spain and Poland have 21; Romania has 15; Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic and Hungary and Bulgaria have 12; Denmark, Ireland, Finland Lithuania and Slovakia have 9; Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia have 7; Luxembourg and Cyprus have 6; Malta has 5
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the political assembly that provides the regional and local levels with a voice in EU policy development and EU legislation. The Treaties oblige the Commission, Parliament and Council to consult the Committee of the Regions whenever new proposals are made in areas that affect the regional or local level. The CoR has 344 members from the 27 EU countries, and its work is organised in 6 different commissions.
The ECB is the central bank for Europe's single currency, the euro. The ECB’s main task is to maintain the euro's purchasing power and thus price stability in the euro area. The euro area comprises the 16 European Union countries that have introduced the euro since 1999.
The European Investment Bank was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1958 as the long-term lending bank of the European Union. The task of the Bank is to contribute towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of the EU Member States. The EIB raises substantial volumes of funds on the capital markets which it lends on favourable terms to projects furthering EU policy objectives. The EIB continuously adapts its activity to developments in EU policies.