The heads of state or government get together at least twice a year. They set the goals and rules of the community and discuss plans for the future. Every six months a different country serves as president of the union.
European Council Meeting in 2011
Source : https://www.flickr.com/photos/minister-president/5555966067/in/set-72157626347814212/ Author : Prime Minister of the Netherlands
The Council of Ministers is the lawmaking part of the EU. It is made up of one representative from each of the member nations. The council decides how laws are made and agreements carried out. Most of the decisions that are reached here are unanimous.
Council of Ministers at the Europa Building in Brussels
Image: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
The commission makes sure that treaties of the union are carried out and rules are followed. There are 27 commissioners, one from each member state. Each of them is responsible for a certain area, like the environment, energy, transportation or farming.
President of the European Commission : Ursula von der Leyen
Image: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
It is the only body of the EU that is elected directly by the people of the member countries. Every five years citizens in all member states elect a total of 785 MEPs (Member of the European Parliament). Countries with a large population like Germany, Italy, and France have more MEPs, smaller countries like Luxembourg have few MEPs. European Parliament is different from other parliaments because it cannot pass laws. It discusses the suggestions of the Commission and the Council of Ministers, but it must be heard by the lawmaking organs. The Parliament has the strongest powers in budget and money matters.
European parliament in session in Strasbourg
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
The ECJ runs the courts of the EU. It is located in Luxembourg and is made up of 28 judges who decide if the actions of the Commission, member states or private citizens comply with the rules of the EU. The court’s decisions are final and everyone, including governments, must follow them.
European Court of Justice building in Luxembourg
European Central Bank in Frankfurt