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The Institutions of the Union


The institutional framework


Introduction
The judicial system
Other institutions of the Union
The Union's advisory bodies
Summary table

INTRODUCTION

The draft Constitution amends the basic institutional structure of the European Union (EU), which currently consists of five institutions (European Parliament, Council of Ministers, Commission, Court of Justice and Court of Auditors), and four other important bodies (European Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, European Central Bank and European Investment Bank).
Thus, the members of the Convention have inserted the following phrase in Article I-18 of Title IV (the title covering the Union's intuitions): "the institutional framework comprises: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission [and] the Court of Justice".

The European Council is therefore recognised as a fully-fledged institution, but the Court of Auditors has been excluded from the basic institutional framework. It is mentioned separately in Chapter II of Title IV, the latter being entitled "Other institutions and bodies", as is the European Central Bank (ECB), which is given the status of an institution. This new presentation, in two separate chapters, suggests that alongside the five main institutions (European Parliament, European Council, Council of Ministers, European Commission and Court of Justice) there are two secondary institutions (Court of Auditors and European Central Bank).

Thus, there are seven bodies that have been classified as institutions.
Of these seven, four of the main institutions ( Parliament , European Council , Council of Ministers and Commission ) have undergone substantial changes whereas the only real changes concerning the Court of Justice relate to some of its provisions.
In its draft, the Convention attempts to clarify the distinction between the two levels of jurisdiction, to improve supervision of the process of appointing judges and advocates-general, to allow for the establishment of specialised courts and to improve access to the Court for private individuals.
Finally, as regards the other EU institutions and bodies, amendments are almost non-existent because only the length of the term of office of members of the Committee of the Regions (COR) and of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has been changed.

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THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM: EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE AND HIGH COURT

Following the major changes made to the judicial system by the Treaty of Nice , including a better distribution of competences between the two bodies and the possibility of setting up of judicial panels attached to the Court of First Instance , the draft constitution proposes some additional changes.

The draft does not make any change to the tasks of the Court of Justice. However, it states that "Member States shall provide rights of appeal sufficient to ensure effective legal protection in the field of Union law" (Article I-28).
The members of the Convention have decided to change the name of the Court of Justice. In the future, the term "Court of Justice" will officially designate the two levels of jurisdiction taken together. The supreme body is now called the "European Court of Justice" while the Court of First Instance of the European Communities is to be renamed "High Court". Article I-28 states that the Court of Justice is to include "the European Court of Justice, the High Court and specialised courts".

Article III-264 of the Constitution states that specialised courts may be attached to the High Court by means of European laws, adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure . These laws, adopted on a proposal from the Court of Justice or the Commission, will lay down the rules on the organisation of the High Court and the extent of the jurisdiction conferred on it.

Article III-262 of the Constitution provides for the setting up of a panel to give an opinion on candidates' suitability to perform the duties of Judge and Advocate-General, before the governments of the Member States take the decisions regarding their appointment.

Finally, private individuals' access to the Court of Justice will be facilitated by the provision that any natural or legal person may institute proceedings against "a regulatory act which is of direct concern to him or her and does not entail implementing measures" (Article III-270). In this way, the draft Constitution should make it easier for citizens to challenge the Union's regulatory acts under which penalties are imposed, even if these acts do not affect them individually (unlike what is required under existing treaties).

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OTHER INSTITUTIONS OF THE UNION

The Convention proposes that the European Central Bank should have the status of an institution. Article I-29 brings together the general provisions on the ECB and the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), without introducing any substantive changes. By summarising the ECB's tasks, Article I-29 gives these tasks a clearer profile.
At the same time, the protocol on the Statute of the ESCB and the ECB will continue to apply.

The functions of the Court of Auditors are briefly described in Article I-30 of the draft Constitution. More detailed provisions, whose contents remain the same, are to be found in Articles III-290 and III-291.

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THE UNION'S ADVISORY BODIES

The draft Constitution does not confer the status of an institution on any advisory body, as had been requested by the Committee of the Regions. The only change made concerns the length of the term of office of the members of the EU's two advisory bodies, i.e. the COR and the EESC. This has now become five years (instead of four), which is the same as that for the legislature of the European Parliament (Article III-292 for the COR and III-296 for the EESC).
Finally, it should be noted that the Constitution does not decide the composition of the bodies. This will be done by means of a European decision adopted unanimously by the Council (Articles III-292 for the COR and III-295 for the EESC).

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SUMMARY TABLE

Articles Subject Comments
I-29 and III-77 to III-87 The European Central Bank -
I-30 and III-290 to III-291 The Court of Auditors
I-28 and III-258 to III-289 The Court of Justice
I-28 The Court of Justice (name) Significant changes
III-262 The Court of Justice (selection of Judges and Advocates-General)
III-264 The Court of Justice (specialised courts)
III-270 The Court of Justice (actions brought by citizens)
I-31 The advisory bodies -
III-292 to III-294 The Committee of the Regions
III-295 to III-298 The European Economic and Social Committee

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The fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Convention.


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