Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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Europe and the law

3.4 How does the EU operate?

The EU operates through institutions created in the treaties. These institutions can have decision-making powers, law-making powers or may act as part of a checking and consultation procedure.

The institutions include:

  1. The European Parliament (represents the people of the EU).

  2. The Council of the European Union (represents the member states of the EU).

  3. The European Commission (represents the interests of the EU).

  4. The European Court of Justice (upholds EU law).

  5. The European Court of Auditors (checks that expenditure is received and lawfully spent).

  6. The European Central Bank (responsible for managing the euro).

  7. The European Economic and Social Committee (acts as an advisory body).

  8. The Committee of the Regions (represents regional and local authorities).

  9. The European Investment Bank (finances certain investments to promote the objectives of the EU).

  10. The European Ombudsman (acts as an intermediary between EU citizens and EU authorities).

The rules and procedures followed by these institutions are laid down in the treaties on which the EU is founded. These rules are agreed by the governments of member states and ratified by their parliaments. These create the decision- and law-making powers in defined areas. We will consider those institutions with legal rule-making powers in Part C.

Activity 2 The emergence of a European legal order

0 hours 20 minutes

This activity requires you to read the transcript of a video clip entitled ‘The emergence of a European legal order’. The transcript illustrates how post-war idealism in Europe created a series of European-wide institutions to enforce individual rights and encourage economic, social and political cooperation. You have to read carefully to pick up the point that the European Court of Human Rights is separate from the EU institutions which are discussed. The presenter does say that they are two separate things but refers to them in a different order. You may want to take notes, and whilst reading the transcript you should think about the following questions:

  1. Why were the individual's rights seen as important?

  2. Why were economic and social cooperation seen as important ways forward?

Click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   below for the transcript.



It is very easy to forget the turmoil which existed in Europe immediately after the Second World War: the thousands of displaced persons, the collapse of industry, flattened cities, difficulties in travel and breakdown of order. Out of these grew a belief in a new European order, the creating of a Europe where these events could not occur again. The way forward was seen as agreed common values, such as the protection of the rights of citizens, security, democracy and the rule of law. The focus initially was economic growth and the protection of rights but this focus has been expanded and is something that will be considered as the course progresses.


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