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EUROPEAN UNION

Committee of the Regions

EU Treaties, legislation,
institutions and
decision-making
Factsheet
An online course (MOOC) for regional and local authorities

EU Treaties and legislation


EU law is based on primary legislation, mainly laid
down in the Treaty on EU (TEU) and the Treaty of
the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). EU secondary
legislation includes legislative acts which are
usually adopted by the European Parliament and
the Council of the EU following a proposal by the
European Commission and non-legislative acts.
Moreover, the EU concludes agreements with
non-member countries (third countries and international organisations).
As defined by Article 3 TFEU, EU competences can
be divided into three categories, with each category covering a list of policies for which the EU
has either:
exclusive competence;
shared competence with the Member States;
competence to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States.
More detailed provisions on different EU policies
are laid down in separate articles of the TFEU.
Short introductions to different EU policies, their
development and prospects can be found in the

Do 80% of national
laws come from
Brussels?

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EPs Factsheets on the European Union and in


the European Commissions easy-to-read series
of brochures The EU explained. The CoR publication Division of Powers contains information on
the division of power between national, regional
and local levels in the EU Member States and the
accession countries, as well as on the regional and
local dimension of EU policies.
The three types of secondary EU legal acts are
regulations, directives and decisions: Regulations
are legally binding and directly applicable in all
Member States; directives are also binding but
must be transposed into national law within a giv-

by the year 2000, 80% of economic


and perhaps even fiscal and
social legislation will originate
from European institutions. Since
then, this quote has been used by
Back in 1988, the then President those promoting anti-European
of the European Commission, sentiment and Europhiles alike
Jacques Delors announced to the to highlight the influence that
British Trades Union Congress that Brussels has on national

legislation. A recent paper by Yves


Bertoncini, of the Paris-based
think tank Notre Europe, noted
that studies have concluded that
the actual level is closer to 20%
than 80%. They also show that EU
influence on national laws varies
significantly between policy fields.
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EUROPEAN UNION

EU Treaties, legislation, institutions


and decision-making
en period; decisions only deal with specific issues
and are binding upon those Member States, organisations, enterprises or persons to whom they
are addressed. Moreover, the EU can adopt recommendations and opinions that have no binding force pursuant to Article 288 TFEU.
Delegated acts are non-legislative acts, which
supplement or amend certain non-essential elements of a legislative act (Article 290 of TFEU).
Implementing acts are legal acts adopted to
provide further detail on the content of a legislative act, in order to ensure that it is implemented
under uniform conditions in all Member States
(Article 291 of TFEU).

Committee of the Regions

EU institutions
The European Parliament (EP) and its 751 members represent the citizens of the Member States
and are directly elected every five years. The Parliament takes decisions on most EU laws together
with the Council of the EU, via the ordinary legislative procedure. Parliamentary positions are
prepared by 22 Committees which work on different policies and adopted during plenary sessions held in Strasbourg or Brussels. Eight political
groups have been established at the European
Parliament for the current term of office. There
around 6 000 EP staff in total, including both the
EP Secretariat-General and the political groups

Finally, other legal acts can be issued by the EU


institutions in order to regulate the internal workings of the EU or its institutions. Such agreements
include arrangements between the institutions,
or internal rules of procedure.
In 2014 the EU adopted about 2 400 legal acts, one
quarter of which were amending acts. The remainder were basic acts. Of the latter, more than 56%
were regulations, about 41% were decisions and
about 3% were directives. The European Commission adopted about two thirds of all legal acts, the
Council just over 22% and European Parliament
and Council together accounted for approximately 8%. However, over the past 20 years the number
of regulations adopted annually by the Commission has fallen significantly from about 2 500 in
1995 to 866 in 2014. Approximately 2 000 delegated and implementing acts are adopted annually.
In 2013 , 1 700 of these were implementing acts.

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The European Council is comprised of the 28


heads of state or government of the Member
States and it sets the EUs overall political agenda.
The President of the European Council whose
primary role is to coordinate and drive forward
the work of the European Council is elected by
the members of the European Council and can
serve for a maximum of five years. The Council of
the EU represents the 28 Member States. It is divided into ten policy fields. Council meetings are
chaired by the Presidency of the Council of the EU,
which rotates between the Member States every
six months. The Council takes decisions (positions) on legislative proposals made by the European Commission by double majority. The Councils voting system defines that majority as 55% of
the Member States representing at least 65% of
the EU population. The Foreign Affairs Council is
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EUROPEAN UNION

EU Treaties, legislation, institutions


and decision-making
chaired by the High Representative of the Union
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is also
a vice-president at the European Commission.
About 3 500 officials work in the Secretariat-General of the Council of the EU.
The European Commission is the executive
branch of the Union. It represents the interests of
the EU and is composed of 28 Commissioners
one from each Member State and chaired by a
President. The latter is nominated by the European Council and appointed by the European Parliament for a term of five years. The Commission has
33 000 staff working in 33 different departments
known as Directorate-Generals (which represent
specific policies) and 11 other services. The Commission is the only EU institution with the right to
propose legislation as part of the ordinary legislative procedure. It also ensures that EU legislation
and the EU budget are properly implemented and
it represents the EU in international negotiations.
Other EU institutions include the Court of Justice
of the European Union, the European Central
Bank and the European Court of Auditors.
The two advisory bodies of the EU are the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
The CoR members are representatives of regional
and local bodies, who either hold a regional or local authority electoral mandate or are politically
accountable to an elected assembly. As is the case
at the European Parliament, members of the CoR
can also belong to political groups. There are currently five political groups at the CoR. EESC mem-

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Committee of the Regions


bers represent employer, employee, and civil society organisations. These Committees each have
350 members and they support the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in developing EU policy and legislation. In accordance
with the provisions laid down by the Treaties, both
bodies adopt opinions on either a mandatory or
voluntary basis, or upon their own initiative. The
CoRs relations with other EU institutions, namely
the European Parliament and the European Commission, are laid down in inter-institutional agreements. Together, the CoR and the EESC employ a
total of 1 500 officials.

EU decision-making
EU decision-making involves three main institutions: the European Parliament, the Council of the
European Union which represents the individual member countries and the European Commission. In principle, the European Commission
makes new proposals, but it is the Council together with the Parliament that adopts them. Before
any proposal, the Commission takes stock of existing legislation and conducts an impact assessment. It must also consult stakeholders and other
institutions for their views and seek the opinions
of national parliaments and governments.
The ordinary legislative procedure replaces the
co-decision procedure and involves the European
Parliament and the Council of the EU as co-legislators. The ordinary legislative procedure is laid
down under Article 294 TFEU. In addition, under
the ordinary legislative procedure the Council of
the EU takes decisions by qualified majority. In
order to improve decision making and enhance
the effectiveness of the procedure, the Treaty of
Lisbon laid down a new definition of a qualified
majority. The Council and the Parliament adopt
legislative acts either at first reading, or at second
reading. If after the second reading the two institutions have still not reached agreement, a Conciliation Committee is convened. Building on previous Treaties, the Treaty of Lisbon extended the
ordinary legislative procedure to new policy areas.

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EUROPEAN UNION

EU Treaties, legislation, institutions


and decision-making

Committee of the Regions

Special legislative procedures deviate from the


ordinary legislative procedure and they therefore
constitute exceptions. When special legislative
procedures are used, only one institution acts as
legislator (the other being only associated in practice). Its role is limited to consultation or approval
depending on the individual case. Unlike the ordinary legislative procedure, the TFEU does not give

The Better
Regulation Agenda
In May 2015, the European
Commission adopted a Better
Regulation Agenda, which aims
to increase the openness and
transparency of the EU law-making
process. The initiative affects the
Commissions internal procedures
and includes the possibility of a
new interinstitutional agreement
with the European Parliament
and the Council of the EU, which
would enter into force before the
end of 2015. Better regulation

a precise description of special legislative procedures. The rules on special legislative procedures
are therefore defined on an ad hoc basis by the
Articles of the TEU and the TFEU that govern their
adoption. All EU legal acts and national transposition laws can be found on EUR-Lex. Moreover, the
EPs Legislative Observatory monitors the main
steps in the decision-making process.

will include more transparency


during the preparatory phase
of legislative acts, through
roadmaps and inception impact
assessments. These assessments
will describe new initiatives
in the pipeline and provide
evaluations of existing legislation.
Such evaluations will check the
performance of EU laws against
standard criteria. REFIT, the
Commissions Regulatory Fitness
and Performance Programme,
will identify opportunities to
reduce regulatory burdens and
simplify existing laws. Its two
platforms will invite experts from

Member States, representatives


from businesses and civil society
and social partners to participate
in an ongoing dialogue. Following
a Commission proposal for a new
legal act, any citizen or stakeholder
will have eight weeks to provide
comments or suggestions, which
will feed into the legislative debate
at the Parliament and Council.
Interestingly, from a regional
point of view, the new Impact
Assessment Toolbox includes a
chapter on taking the territorial
impact of EU legislation into
account during preparations.

Disclaimer
The content of this document and any opinions expressed therein do not
necessarily represent the official position of the European Committee of the
Regions (CoR). It is addressed to the participants of the online course (MOOC)
oft he CoR on regions, EU institutions and policy-making. Reproduction and
translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is
acknowledged and the CoR is given prior notice and sent a copy.

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Manuscript completed in October 2015


European Committee of the Regions | Directorate for Communication
Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat 99101 | 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel | Belgium
www.cor.europa.eu
European Union, 2015

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