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The other institutions and bodies of the Union
The Treaty of Lisbon undertakes a vast institutional reform which mainly concerns the European Council, the Commission, the Council, the Parliament and the Court of Justice. To a lesser extent, the Treaty of Lisbon also makes a number of changes relating to the composition and functioning of the EU’s two advisory committees. It also awards the European Central Bank the status of institution.
THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE
The number of seats for Member States within the Committee is limited to 350. The distribution of these seats between Member States is no longer included in the Treaty of Lisbon, as was the case previously. As it is required to do henceforth for the distribution of seats in the Parliament, the Council unanimously adopts a decision laying down rules on the composition of the Committee. Moreover, the Treaty of Lisbon extends the term of office of members of the Committee from 4 to 5 years, bringing it into line with that of members of the Commission and the Parliament. Consequently, the Committee chairman and officers will now be elected by their peers for two and a half years rather than for two years.
As part of its advisory role, the Economic and Social Committee may henceforth issue opinions following a referral from the European Parliament.
THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
As with the European Economic and Social Committee, the number of seats within the Committee of the regions is limited to 350 and the distribution of seats by Member State must be the subject of a unanimous Council decision. The members of the Committee of the Regions are henceforth appointed for a term of five years, instead of four, while its chairman and officers are elected for two and a half years.
In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the advisory role of the Committee of the Regions by extending its area of activity. Civil protection, climate change, energy and services of general interest are therefore added to the list of fields in which the Committee is to be consulted. On the same basis as the Commission and the Council, the European Parliament is also authorised to seek an opinion from the Committee of the Regions.
The Committee of the Regions also has new powers within the EU as a result of the possibility of bringing two types of action before the Court of Justice of the EU. On the one hand, the Committee becomes one of the guarantors of the principle of subsidiarity within the EU. It may bring an action before the Court of Justice seeking the annulment of an act deemed not to comply with the principle of subsidiarity (Article 8 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality). However, this right of referral is limited to acts for which the Committee has to be consulted. On the other hand, Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU authorises the Committee to bring an action before the Court of Justice of the EU for the purpose of protecting its own prerogatives. It therefore has legal means which henceforth enable it to ensure that the EU institutions respect its right to be consulted.
THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK
The ECB is granted the status of EU institution on the same basis as the European Council, the Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. It thereby becomes the only institution granted legal personality.
It is run by three main bodies:
- the Governing Council of the ECB, which comprises the members of the Executive Board and the governors of the national central banks of the Euro zone countries. It is the main decision-making body and defines the monetary policy of the Euro zone;
- the Executive Board, the six members of which are henceforth appointed by the European Council acting by a qualified majority in order to limit the risks of blocking;
- the General Council, which comprises the members of the Executive Board and the governors of the central banks of all Member States.
The Treaty of Lisbon also clarifies the two principal missions of the ECB:
- the ECB and the central banks of the EU Member States form the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). The main objective of the ESCB is to maintain price stability. It also contributes to the general economic policies of the Union;
- the ECB and the central banks of Member States which have adopted the Euro make up the Eurosystem. In contrast with the ESCB, the Eurosystem defines and conducts the monetary policy of the Union. Until now, ‘Eurosystem’ was a term used informally by the ECB. It is henceforth fully recognised by the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Treaty of Lisbon finally reaffirms the independence of the ECB. This independence is guaranteed by the relatively long term of office of the members of the Executive Board (eight years) and by the prohibition banning the ECB and the national central banks from accepting instructions from the other EU institutions, governments of Member States or any other body.
Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
|Composition and prerogatives of the European Central Bank|
|Composition and prerogatives of the European Economic and Social Committee|
|Composition and prerogatives of the Committee of the Regions|