European Institutions

Main European Institutions

Gateway to the European Union (general site)
EUROPA is the portal site of the European Union ( It provides up-to-date coverage of European Union affairs and essential information on European integration. Users can also consult all legislation currently in force or under discussion, access the websites of each of the EU institutions and find out about the policies administered by the European Union under the powers devolved to it by the Treaties. EUROPA is a comprehensive gateway to the European Union. Here you will be able to find basic information about the EU, help guides about the life in the EU, a media bank, and a documentation centre among other services.

The EU at a glance
Information site containing documentation about several important issues with regards to the EU, such as the history of the EU, members, the budget, travelling in Europe.

The EU and its member states
Website where you can access information about the Member States of the European Union, the candidate countries, and other European countries.

EU Treaties and Texts
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union brings together the heads of state or government of the European Union (EU), the presidency of the Council, and the president of the Commission. The Council works to define the general political guidelines of the EU. The Council of the EU is considered a core, if not the main determinant of EU decision-making. In addition to heads of state or government, the ministers of the Member States meet within the Council of the EU where each country is represented by the minister responsible for that subject area (foreign affairs, finance, social affairs, transport, agriculture, etc.).

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Council Presidency
The European Council elects it’s President by a qualified majority for a term in office of two and a half years, renewable once.

According to Article 15 (6) of the Treaty on the European Union, the President of the European

  • chairs it and drives forward its work;
  • ensures the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council;
  • endeavours to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council;
  • presents a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the  European Council.

For more information as well as a list of the previous EU Presidencies, please visit:

Presidency Conclusions (organized by year)

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission: Catherine Ashton
Within the context of the CFSP, the Union is developing a common security policy, covering all questions relating to its security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy. This policy could eventually evolve into a common defence policy, subject to the wishes of the Council as well as the Member States.

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Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

European Parliament
The European Parliament meets and debates in public. Its decisions, positions and proceedings are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Members sit in political (party) groups in the Chamber, not in national delegations. Parliament currently has seven political groups, as well as 'non-attached' members. Members also sit on parliamentary committees and delegations, as either full or substitute members.

Like all parliaments, the European Parliament has three fundamental powers: legislative, budgetary and supervisory.

Members sit in political groups in the Chamber, not in national delegations. Parliament currently has seven political groups, as well as 'non-attached' members. Members also sit on parliamentary committees and delegations, as either full or substitute members.
Members spend one week each month at a plenary session in Strasbourg, where Parliament meets in full session. Additionally, two-day sittings are held in Brussels. The Parliament's Secretariat is located in Luxembourg.

For more information on the EP:

For more information on the EP’s members and powers:

European Parliament Information Offices:

Political Groups in the European Parliament:

European Commission
When we talk about "the Commission" as a political body, we mean the ‘College of’ Commissioners (or Members of the Commission) that represent each member-state of the European Union. Commissioners are men and women who have generally sat in national parliaments or the European Parliament or who have held high office in their home countries, often at ministerial level, before coming to Brussels. The Commission is appointed for a five-year term, which is the same as the life of the European Parliament, however starting six months later.

The Commission's job is to represent the common European interest to all the EU countries. To allow it to play its role as 'guardian of the treaties' and defender of the general interest, the Commission also has the right of initiative in the lawmaking process. This means that it proposes legislative acts for the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to adopt.
The Commission is responsible for putting the EU's common policies (like the common agricultural policy and the growth and jobs strategy) into practice and manage the EU's budget and programmes. Although the Commission is allowed to take any initiative it sees as necessary to attain the objectives of the EU treaties, most of its proposals are to meet its legal obligations and other technical requirements or because another EU institution, member country or stakeholder has asked it to act.

The Commission meets once a week to adopt proposals, finalise policy papers and take other decisions required of it. Routine matters are dealt with via simplified written procedures. When necessary, the Commission may hold special sessions in addition to its weekly meeting. At its meetings, each item is presented by the Commissioner responsible for the policy sector in question. Decisions are taken where necessary by a majority vote; when a decision has been adopted, it becomes Commission policy. It then has the full support of all Commissioners. The

The Commission fulfils three main functions:

  • initiates Community policy and represents the general interest of the European Union;
  • acts as the guardian of the EU treaties to ensure that European legislation is applied correctly;
  • as the Union's executive body, the Commission manages policies and negotiates international trade and cooperation agreements. 

For more information, please visit:

President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso’s Homepage (2009-Present)

European Commission Directorates General (DG’s) and Services 

European Commission Representations in Member States

European Commission Delegations in the Third Countries and to the International Organisations
The Delegations of the External Service, although hierarchically a part of the Commission structure, in practice serve European Union interests as a whole in 123 countries throughout the world, and at five centres (in Geneva, New York, Paris, Rome and Vienna) of international organisations (OECD, OSCE, UN and WTO): presenting, explaining and implementing EU policy; analysing and reporting on the policies and developments of the countries to which they are accredited ; and conducting negotiations in accordance with a given mandate.

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The European Union in the World (European Commission)

The Court of Justice of the European Communities (CVRIA)
The Court of Justice of the European Communities was established in 1952, for the purpose of ensuring that "the law is observed" "in the interpretation and application" of the Treaties.

As part of its mission, the Court of Justice:

  • reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union,
  • ensures that the Member States comply with their obligations under Community law,
  • interprets Community law at the request of the national courts and tribunals.

The Court of Justice, with its seat in Luxembourg, is composed of 27 Judges and eight Advocates General.  The Court constitutes the judicial authority of the European Union and, in cooperation with the courts and tribunals of the Member States, ensures the application and uniform interpretation of Community law.

The Court of Justice of consists of three courts: the Court of Justice, the Court of First Instance (created in 1988) and the Civil Service Tribunal (created in 2004). Together, these three courts have delivered approximately 15,000 judgments.

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European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
The EESC is a consultative body that provides European “socio-occupational” interest groups, and others, with a formal EU institution wherein they may express the points of view of the interests they represent at the EU-level of decision-making. Opinions adopted by a majority of the EESC representatives are forwarded to the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament.

The EESC’s members are appointed by their national governments (and selected from the various interests they are to represent, such as farmers union) and belong to one of three groups:

  • Employers
  • Employees
  • Various Interests

The EESC is also made up of six sections:

  • Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT)
  • Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO)
  • Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC)
  • External Relations (REX)
  • The Single Market, Production and Consumption (INT)
  • Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN)

In certain cases, the European Commission or the Council of the EU must consult the EESC; though most of the time this is optional. The EESC may, however, also adopt opinions on its own initiative. Annually, the EESC delivers an average of 170 advisory documents and opinions (of which about 15 percent are own-initiative).

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Committee of the Regions (CoR)
The CoR is the political assembly that provides European regions and local levels with a voice in EU policy development and legislation. The Treaties oblige the Commission and Council to consult the CoR whenever new proposals are made in areas that affect regions or localities. The CoR has members appointed from the 28 EU countries, and its work is organised in different commissions. They examine proposals, debate and discuss in order to write official opinions on key issues.

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European Central Bank (ECB)
The ECB and the national central banks together constitute the European central banking system of the euro area. Its main objective is to maintain price stability essentially safeguarding the value of the euro. 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union began fixing the exchange rates of 11 Member States currencies. 1 January 2001, Greece entered and Slovenia became the 13th member of the euro area on 1 January 2007, followed one year later by Cyprus and Malta and by Slovakia on 1 January 2009. On the day each country joined the euro area, its central bank automatically became part of the Eurosystem. Today (as per January 2016), euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in 19 of the 28 Member States of the European Union, including the overseas departments, territories and islands which are either part of, or associated with, euro area countries.

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Think Tanks

The EPC works at the ‘cutting edge’ of European and global policy-making providing its members and the wider public with rapid, high-quality information and analysis on the EU and global policy agenda. It aims to promote a balanced dialogue between the different constituencies of its membership, spanning all aspects of economic and social life.

Founded in Brussels in 1983, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) serves as a leading forum for debate on EU affairs, but its most distinguishing feature lies in its strong in-house research capacity, complemented by an extensive network of partner institutes throughout the world.

The Centre for European Reform is a think-tank devoted to improving the quality of the debate on the European Union. It is a forum for people with ideas from Britain and across the continent to discuss the many political, economic and social challenges facing Europe. It seeks to work with similar bodies in other European countries, North America and elsewhere in the world.

Policy Network is an international thinktank dedicated to promoting progressive policies and the renewal of social democracy. Policy Network facilitates the sharing of ideas and experiences among politicians, policymakers and experts on the centre-left.

The European Social Observatory (OSE asbl) is a centre for research, study and other activities in the field of social policy and employment in Europe. It analyses the impact of European policies on the social sphere at national and European level.

The Centre for the New Europe AISBL is a non-profit, non-partisan research foundation based in Brussels. We call ourselves simply "Liberal."

The European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) is a Paris-based agency of the European Union, operating under the EU's second pillar, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Its goals are to find a common security culture for the EU, to help develop and project the CFSP, and to enrich Europe’s strategic debate.