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Brexit: Institutions of the European Union

The ‘EU’ is a relatively complex animal.  It comprises 4 key ‘arms’:

The European Council comprises the heads of state/government of the 28, soon to be 27 members.  They meet four times a year and provide political direction.  Not to be confused with the…

Council of the European Union “The Council” or “Council of Ministers” comprises ministers from each member state relevant to the topic being discussed, for instance if the topic of discussion is agriculture then each member’s national minister for agriculture will be present.

The European Parliament is an elected body, with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted for in each country every 5 years.  There are 751 MEPs.  The European Parliament does not have legislative initiative, i.e. is cannot prompt the creation of legislation, but deals with legislation which was initiated in the European Commission.

The European Commission is the executive element of the Union, i.e. it is responsible for the day to day running of the Union.  The Commission is also the initiator of legislation which means that the role of President of the European Commission is key as it is unlikely that any proposed legislation will be progressed if it does not have their support.

On 1st December 2019, then president Jean Claude Junker was replaced by Ursula von der Leyen.  Before becoming politically active, von der Leyen studied economics and then medicine, and only in 2003, aged 44, did she take up her first government position.  Since then she has held various positions in Angela Merkel’s cabinet, most latterly that of Minister of Defence.

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