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The European Union Explained The European Union The existence of the European Union can be traced back to the emergence of the European Coal and Steel Community which was set up in 1950. It united European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace.

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the european union
The European Union
  • The existence of the European Union can be traced back to the emergence of the European Coal and Steel Community which was set up in 1950. It united European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace.
  • The six founders were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
  • The UK joined in 1973.
  • The EU now consists of 27 member states.
  • Various treaties have meant greater integration. The member states now work together on a huge range of issues.
  • A single currency – the Euro – was introduced in 2004, but the UK decided not to join.
european council referred to as european summit
European Council(referred to as European Summit)


  • Made up of all member-states’ heads of government or state
  • President of Commission also attends


  • Meets at least twice a year
  • Presidency of the Council rotates every six months


  • Defines EU’s strategic direction
european commission
European Commission


  • Headed by Cabinet of 27 Commissioners
  • Employs about 30,000 civil servants


  • President of Commission chosen by EU governments
  • Commissioners nominated by their national governments
  • Commissioners and President approved by EU Parliament


  • Drafts proposals for EU laws
  • Implementing decisions
  • Manages day-to-day business of EU

image by World Economic Forum

council of ministers
Council of Ministers

Voice of the member states’ governments


  • Made up of a government minister from each member state
  • Membership changes according to the subject of discussion


  • Each country has weighted vote
  • Makes decisions alongside the EU Parliament


  • Considers legislation from Commission
  • Sets EU policy on issues where the EU can

only act unanimously- such as defence &

foreign policy

  • Signs international treaties with non-EU

states on behalf of the EU

european parliament
European Parliament

Voice of the people


  • 736 MEPs
  • MEPs form cross-country coalition parties and sit in these groupings


  • Elected every five years (in the UK we use a closed-list PR system)
  • Only directly elected body in EU


  • Legislates as an equal with Council of Ministers
  • Most work done in committees
  • Vote in plenary sessions

image by European Parliament

european court of justice
European Court of Justice


  • One judge per member-state
  • Judges elect one of their number as President for three years


  • Judges appointed by the Governments of member-states
  • Chosen from experienced and highly qualified judges in home countries


  • Union law applied the same across EU
  • Settles legal disputes
  • Can overrule national law, if it conflicts with

EU Law, since it is the highest court in the EU

european court of auditors
European Court of Auditors


  • One member from each EU state
  • Elect one of themselves as President


  • Appointed by Council of Ministers
  • Chosen from highly qualified auditors in home countries


  • Oversee EU accounts
  • Produce audit report each year
how it all fits together
How it all fits together….

European Council

Directs strategy



Proposes legislation

and budget

Appoints & supervises




Council of






EU law

EU budget



Court of


Court of


what do meps do
What do MEPs do?
  • The 12 regions and nations of the United Kingdom have between three and ten MEPs
  • They divide their time between their regional constituencies in the UK and committee and political group meetings in Brussels
  • For one week in every month they are in Strasbourg to vote in a full session of the European Parliament
  • They do much of their political work as members of at least one of Parliament’s twenty specialist policy committees

Contacting MEPs for School Visits

  • you to enter your postcode and find out who your MEPs are
  • Typically, MEPs spend Monday to Thursday either in Brussels or Strasbourg and Friday/weekend in the UK
  • Contact all MEPs in your region, giving them at least 6 weeks notice and a variety of dates
quiz time
Quiz Time!
  • What is the name of the only directly elected body of the European Union?
  • How often does the European Council meet?
  • How many countries are members of the European Union?
  • Who oversees the budget of the European Union?
  • Which body drafts proposals for new laws?
  • In what year did the UK join the EU?

The European Parliament

At least twice a year


European Court of Auditors

European Commission