Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

The EU (or whatever)

Brussels cobbles look their best in the rain - November 2009

I’m booked on Eurostar to Brussels next Monday.  A handful of us (some from the UK, others from Europe-wide networks) have a meeting at the European Commission to talk about intercultural/all-faiths-&-none groups across Europe.

So, what is the European Commission?  It’s part of the EU – the civil service bit of it, led by commissioners from each EU country – but with more of an active role than the UK civil service, for example it’s responsible for proposing EU legislation as well as implementing it.

It’s not the European Council (EU heads of state), the European Parliament (MEPs) nor what is often called the Council of Ministers (government ministers from EU member states).

Most of these bits of the EU seem to have presidents – either a person or a country:

There’s also the sinister-sounding European External Action Service, led by the UK’s Catherine Ashton.

If you go boss-eyed with unrelenting bright blue backgrounds, tiny print, yellow stars and hopelessly high “Europe” & “Council” word-counts when you search the Euro-web, this little diagram from The EU – What’s in it for me? will help:

So, now you know ;)

I’ll ask the Eurobloggers (& see the list of Europe links on left of this blog) to check this post for accuracy, but it’s making me feel dizzy already.

I love Brussels.  I’ll be taking my best English, my schoolgirl French and my shaking-hands way of saying hello.

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2 comments on “The EU (or whatever)

  1. Catriona Robertson
    11 January 2011

    Thanks Jon – the Council thing, inter alia, was confusing me.

    I suppose the tension between the responsibilities of the various bodies is part of the check/balance set-up. Feels a bit like UK local government – sometimes local authorities are driven by councillors, sometimes by officers, sometimes a mix – & central govt has a fair hand in it as well.

    Looking forward to it & only wish I could stay longer.

  2. Jon Worth
    11 January 2011

    A couple of things…

    1. Most legislation in the UK is drafted by the civil service and proposed by the Government, so that’s not so different to the Commission
    2. The Commissioners (known as the College of Commissioners) are the closest you have in Brussels to something resembling the UK Cabinet. These folks are political, not bureaucratic, although they are from all sorts of party political backgrounds
    3. The Council of the European Union is the proper and formal name for the Council of Ministers. Also note that if people in Brussels say just ‘The Council’ this is the one they mean.

    Have fun on the journey!

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