The main institutions of the EU are outlined below:
- The European Parliament is an elected body which represents the interests of EU citizens. It provides a forum for communication and debate, but also has important legislative and budgetary functions and a power of veto on the membership of the European Commission.
- The European Commission has lead responsibility for developing legislative proposals for the EU. It also plays an important role in ensuring that EU law is applied by Member States, and can bring infringement action against Member States if necessary. In relation to competition law and State aid, the Commission is directly responsible for law enforcement and has power to make binding legal decisions in this area.
- The European Council consists of the heads of state or government of each Member State of the EU. It drives EU policy by developing proposals which are then translated into legislative proposals by the European Commission. It is essentially the name given to the Council of the European Union when the ministerial representative of each Member State is the head of state.
- The Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers) consists of ministerial representatives from each Member State. The ministers who partake vary depending on the policy area being discussed. Accordingly, it represents the interests of national governments. It has important legislative and budgetary functions. The Council is supported by a large number of working parties whose role is to scrutinise legislative proposals submitted by the European Commission.
- The Court of Justice of the European Union (generally known as the European Court of Justice, or ECJ) is a system of courts comprising the Court of Justice, the General Court and various specialist courts. These courts ensure that EU law is applied and observed.