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The institutions

Published on 12 April 2022

The institutions established for the European Atomic Energy Community are shared with those of the European Union. Even if the exercise of their functions may be different depending on the legal basis considered (the Euratom Treaty or the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, TFEU), there is therefore only one and only one Commission, one Council of European Union and a single European Parliament.

The European Commission

Guardian of the Treaties, the European Commission oversees the implementation of the texts adopted by the Council and can resort to litigation before the Court of Justice to enforce Community law. It is made up of 27 European Commissioners (one per Member State), each of whom is assigned a specific portfolio of missions. Although the Commission takes its decisions by a simple majority of its members, it is nevertheless collectively responsible to the European Parliament. To assist itself, the Commission has an administration made up of 36 directorates-general (DGs) and services, whose headquarters are mainly divided between Brussels and Luxembourg.

The Commission has the right of initiative in the legislative field: in particular, it formulates proposals for regulations, directives and community programmes, which are then transmitted to the Council and the European Parliament. As the management body, the Commission then executes the decisions taken by the Council. Thus, it assumes the implementation of common policies and manages community programs, in particular the research and development framework program (PCRD). The Commission may also formulate recommendations and opinions within the framework of Community policies. Externally, the Commission may negotiate, with the authorization of the Council, international agreements with third countries or international organisations.

The Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (or Council of Ministers) is, together with the European Parliament, the main decision-making body of Euratom. It represents the Member States and a minister from each national government participates in its meetings depending on the item being discussed. These files are discussed and prepared beforehand in more technical working groups.

Euratom files are mainly discussed within the framework of the Working Party on Atomic Questions (WPAQ) and Working Party on Research (Atomic Questions) (WPRAQ).

The Permanent Representation of France carries the French voice there, in close collaboration with the ministries concerned, the SGAE (General Secretariat for European Affairs) and the CTE, which prepares the French position.

The Council has legislative power and budgetary power (which it shares with the European Parliament for activities relating to the EU): it adopts formal legal acts (regulations, directives, decisions) and international agreements negotiated beforehand by the Commission. In the vast majority of cases, the Council decides on a proposal from the European Commission and in association with the European Parliament, through a consultation procedure when the texts in question are adopted under the legal basis of the Euratom Treaty.

The Presidency of the Council plays an essential role in the organization of the work of the institution, in particular in giving impetus to the legislative and political decision-making process. She is responsible for organizing and chairing all meetings, as well as working out compromises that can resolve problems. Each country exercises the Presidency in turn, for a period of 6 months.

France holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU during the first half of 2022.

The European Parliament

The European Parliament, whose 705 deputies are elected every five years by universal suffrage, participates, along with the Council of the EU, in the legislative process. The Parliament thus exercises three main powers: a legislative power, a budgetary power and a power of control.

          Legislative power: the European Parliament shares the legislative function with the Council, that is the adoption of European laws (directives, regulations, decisions) proposed by the Commission.

         Budgetary power: prepared by the Commission, the budget is then discussed by the Council and the Parliament. For the EU budget, the Parliament can impose amendments on the Council for non-compulsory expenditure and finally adopts the budget. He also has the option of rejecting it.

         Power of control: the Parliament controls the execution of Community programs by the Commission and the smooth running of European policies.

The European Parliament also examines petitions from citizens of the Union and has the power to appoint committees of inquiry, in the event of infringements or poor application of Community law by the Member States. Finally, it is up to him to approve the College of Commissioners before it can take office.

Since February 1st, 2020, following Brexit, the European Parliament has only 705 MEPs (compared to 751 previously), some seats having been redistributed to other countries and others remaining vacant in anticipation of possible enlargements of the EU.

The Parliament holds plenary sessions once a month in Strasbourg, which is its legal seat, but additional shorter sessions also take place in Brussels. To prepare the work of the European Parliament in plenary session, MEPs are divided into standing committees, each specializing in particular areas. These committees are 20 in number and meet once or twice a month in Brussels to examine the proposals of the Commission and the Council and, if necessary, draw up a report which will be presented to the plenary session. Their discussions are public. For Euratom subjects, it is mainly the ITRE (Committee for Industry, Research and Energy) and ENVI (Committee for the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) committees that are concerned.

Finally, while the ordinary legislative procedure provided by the TFEU is based on co-decision between the Council and Parliament, the Euratom Treaty provides a consultation procedure. The Commission sends its proposal to both the Council and the Parliament, the two institutions can study the Commission's proposal and suggest modifications, but only the Council has the actual power to adopt or reject the texts studied.

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