What you might need to know

This lesson focuses on the European institutions involved in making decisions at European level.

You have FOUR European institutions.

1. The first one is the European Council. It comes up with the big idea setting the general direction for the European Union. The people sitting in this institution are all the Heads of State and Government. This means that the Taoiseach represents Ireland or the French President, France.

2. The second institution is the European Commission. Its job is to put into words the big ideas suggested by the European Council. It is the only one that can do this job. It can be suggested lots of different things but ultimately if it doesn’t want to write up a proposal on a suggested issue, it won’t. It is really the gatekeeper to legislative proposals. It is made up of 27 Commissioners, one per country. It also has a President, included in the 27 Commissioners. The Commission doesn’t represent individual countries. It fights for the general interest of the European Union.

The last two institutions work in parallel. They are the two chambers which vote on the Commission’s proposals.

3. One is called the Council of the European Union (I know very confusing title with European Council!!!). The Council of the EU is made up of the ministers responsible for the topic under discussion. If the Commission proposal is about an agricultural measure, the Ministers for Agriculture meet. If it is a measure about protecting the environment, it is the Ministers for the Environment meeting up. They all talk and usually they avoid voting. They’d rather find a consensus.

4. The European Parliament is made up of members who we all elect every 5 years in each EU country. There are 705 of them. The Members of the European Parliament vote on the Commission’s proposals. Ultimately, the proposal will be adopted only if the European Parliament and the Council of the EU agree on the same wording of the text. So the European Commission doesn’t decide. It is our representatives who do.

If you find it confusing, think of the national level. The Commission is like a government, the European Parliament is like an Assembly representing the European citizens and the Council of the EU is a Senate representing countries. The game included in this lesson is to get the children to understand the dynamic between institutions and the decision-making process from start to finish.