Friday, 17 February 2017

How the EU ACTUALLY works

I've been a lecturer on EU Law for the last quarter of a century (I've also taught European Politics, been an assistant to a Member of the European Parliament,  and dealt with EU institutions as an assistant in the UK Parliament and in my own political work). There are a lot of misconceptions about what the EU does - and how it does it. It is that widespread lack of knowledge amongst British citizens that was the necessary foundation for the Brexit result. Much misinformation has been spread - and I'm glad to hear that Wikipedia has evaluated thre Daily Mail - and found it to be a wholly unreliable source.

So where does one go to find out accurate information?.

At an academic level - there are some excellent textbooks - these two are my personal favourites.

These can be expensive - and are, by nature, complex. There is a lot of FREE information available.

A free booklet from the European Parliament is well set out & VERY informative. It was produced in 2013, so information about the results of the 2014 election (which led to the current party makeup in the EP) are not included. It is available here.

There is a useful website at https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu_en

Key knowledge about the EU involves

- membership (currently 28 members) - in the media the EU (and its institutions, especially the Court) is often confused with the European Convention on Human Rights. That is part of the Council of Europe - a wholly distinct organisation with almost double the number of members.

- the key institutions. Each have their own role - and personnel. The European Commission is the Executive. Despite false assertions in certain parts of the media - it is not an all-powerful body. It may propose legislation - but the Council of Ministers and European Parliament must pass that legislation. Its members are nominated by the (elected) governments of the member states. Before appointment the European Parliament holds hearings, and individual commissioners regularly appear the Parliament. The Council of Ministers is made of government ministers from each member state.  (When Heads of Government/State meet - it is called the European Council, and together the democratically elected leaders of the 28 states set the agenda for the EU). The European Parliament is directly elected every five years. The Court of Justice of the EU is responsible for upholding the legal rules of the EU (interpreting and applying EU Law - and providing legal review of the acts of the institutions).

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