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Principle Governing Institutions of the EU
The European Parliament is a representative body elected directly by the people of the European Union (EU) member countries. Representatives serve five year terms and sit by political rather than national affiliation. The principal roles of the Parliament are: to examine and adopt European legislation (a power shared equally with the Council of Europe); to approve the EU budget; to exercize democratic control over the other EU institutions, with the power to set up committees of inquiry; and to assent to important international agreements such as the accession ofnew EU Member States and trade or association magreements between the EU and other countries.
The Council of Europe is the main legislative and decisions-making body in the EU. Representatives are elected by the governments of member countries and meet regularly to discuss the needs of individual nations within the EU structure. The Council provides a forum for compromises and major policy decisions. The Council is also responsible for intergovernmental cooperation on common foreign and security policy and, in cooperation with the Parliament, sets the rules for the activities of the European Community.
The European Commission drafts proposals for new European laws and manages their implementation when approved by the Parliament and Council. The Commission also supervises expenditures and community adherence to treaties and European laws. The 25 members are nominated by their member governments and approved by the Parliament. They serve five year terms and are assisted by a large body of civil servants.
The Court of Justice ensures compliance and uniform interpretation of the laws passed by the Parliament and Council. The 25 Judges and 8 Advocates-General are appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States and hold office for a renewable term of six years.
The Court of Auditors checks that all the Union's revenue has been received and all its expenditure incurred in a lawful and regular manner and that the EU budget has been managed soundly. Established in 1977, the Court has one member from each EU country, appointed by the Council for a renewable term of six years. Even after enlargement there will still be one member per EU country but, for the sake of efficiency, the Court can set up "chambers" (with only a few members each) to adopt certain types of report or opinion.
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the political assembly which provides local and regional authorities with a voice at the heart of the European Union.
Established in 1994, the CoR was set up to address two main issues. Firstly, about three quarters of EU legislation is implemented at local or regional level, so it makes sense for local and regional representatives to have a say in the development of new EU laws. Secondly, there were concerns that the public was being left behind as the EU steamed ahead. Involving the elected level of government closest to the citizens was one way of closing the gap.