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The European Union and Its Institutions

The European Union, abbreviation EU, is an economic and political association of currently 27 member states that have transferred part of their sovereignty to the institutions of the EU.

There are regulations in the EU that sound a little strange. For example, in the 1980s, the degree of curvature of a cucumber was set to a maximum of one centimeter with a cucumber length of 10 centimeters. As funny as it sounds, this regulation is still a prime example of the sometimes excessive bureaucracy that has helped shape the image of the EU to this day. In the institutions of the EU, however, limit values ​​for the emission of harmful substances from cars are set or regulations are issued on the safety of children’s toys. Such EU regulations must be implemented in national law in the member states. See Countryaah for all countries in the European Union.

Control over this implementation is exercised by various EU institutions that have been set up since the Union was founded. Compliance with the pollutant limit values is checked, for example, by the EU Environment Commissioner; if the limit is exceeded, the country concerned faces fines. But not only in consumer protection, but above all in the areas of customs, currency and trade within Europe, the EU has been given the right by its members to enact legislation. In addition to all these bureaucratic aspects, the real purpose of the European Union sometimes fades into the background: securing peace. In 2012 the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to peaceful development in Europe.

The Treaty of Rome and the founding of the EU

After the terrible experiences of the Second World War, Western European politicians developed the idea of ​​promoting economic cooperation among one another. The idea behind this was that countries that trade with one another would intertwine economically and would therefore tend to avoid armed conflicts. The French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (* 1886, † 1963) expressed the following hope in 1950: “The contribution that an organized and lively Europe can make to civilization is essential for maintaining peaceful relations.” The then German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer added: »Such economic interdependence gives personal rapprochement, gives cultural rapprochement, gives political rapprochement. That’s why you should take this step. ”

Against this background, R. Schuman proposed in 1950 the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, also known as the Coal and Steel Community), whose members should coordinate their coal and steel production with one another. The main concern was to subject the arms industries of Germany and France to mutual control. The founding members in 1951 were France and Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The so-called High Authority, appointed as the executive body for monitoring, is considered to be the predecessor of today’s European Commission. Its first president was the Frenchman Jean Monnet (* 1888, † 1979), who is also known as the “father of Europe”.

In a further development of the idea of R. Schuman and K. Adenauer, the six ECSC states founded the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAG, today EURATOM) in Rome on March 25, 1957 with the signing of the so-called “Treaty of Rome”. The core of the new EEC was the establishment of a customs union with a common external tariff and a common market with free movement of goods, freedom of establishment, free movement of capital and services as well as freedom of movement for workers. The Treaty of Rome created the basis for European integration and is considered to be the actual birth of today’s European Union.

Decisive additions to the Rome Treaties were made in 1993 with the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on the abandonment of border controls among the member states, but above all through regulations on a common judicial, foreign and security policy. With the Maastricht Treaty, the »European Union« is officially created under this name.

Since 1951 it has been possible to create a legal area that is still recognized by all members today. For this purpose, institutions had to be developed that have survived to this day and have mostly also gained in importance. The most important of these will be presented.

The European Commission

The European Commission is, so to speak, the face of the EU for the outside world, for example for the USA or China. As an executive body, it is responsible for the day-to-day business of the EU, ensures the implementation of legal provisions as described above and manages the Union’s finances. It corresponds roughly to the government in a nation-state. The EU Commission is a two-part institution with its headquarters in Brussels. It consists of a political level, namely the College of Commissioners, which is made up of various European politicians and which makes the formal decisions. The second level consists of the directorates-general and services (similar to the national ministries), in which decisions at the political level are prepared and their implementation is monitored.

The college currently consists of 27 commissioners (1 commissioner per member country). Each commissioner has his own topic, for example digital economy and society, foreign and security policy or climate protection and energy. At the top is the Commission President, who has been elected by the European Parliament since 2014. The current incumbent is Ursula von der Leyen . She has a say in the selection of the other committee members and determines their area of responsibility.

As the guardian of the EU treaties, the Commission regularly checks whether the jointly defined rules – such as those of the internal market or the Maastricht Treaty on Stability Pact on national debt permitted within the EU – are being violated. It can impose penalties and even file complaints before the European Court of Justice against member states and companies. One example of this was the accusation against Microsoft of abusing its dominant position in the software sector. In 2013, the Commission imposed a very heavy fine ($ 561 million) on the company for violating EU competition law and required changes to its business practices.

The European Union