Learn about how the EU operates and the work of each EU institution. This section includes a booklet and wallchart explaining about European institutions, information on children’s rights and online student quizzes.
How does the EU work?
Groups of people from all EU countries work together to do the work of the European Union. These meetings take place in different parts of the EU, mainly in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. Each of the EU institutions meet together regularly to create laws for all of the EU and to solve any problems in the EU or in other places in the world.
The European Commission:
In Brussels, 27 women and men (one from each EU country) meet every Wednesday to discuss what needs to be done next. These people are put forward by the government of their country but approved by the European Parliament. They are called ‘commissioners’, and together they make up the European Commission. Their job is to think about what would be best for the EU as a whole, and to propose new laws for the EU as a whole. In their work they are helped by experts, lawyers, secretaries, translators etc. Once they have agreed what law to propose, they send their proposal to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is a Commissioner for Research and Innovation and has been since 2010.
The European Parliament
The European Parliament represents all the people in the EU. It holds a big meeting every month, in Strasbourg (France), to discuss the new laws being proposed by the European Commission. If the Parliament doesn’t like a proposal, it can ask the Commission to change it until Parliament is satisfied that this is a good law. There are over 751 members of the European Parliament (MEPs). They are chosen, every five years, in an election when all the adult citizens of the EU get the chance to vote.
The Council of the European Union
MEPs are not the only people who decide on new EU laws. They also have to be discussed by government ministers from all the EU countries. When the ministers meet together they are called ‘the Council of the European Union’. After discussing a proposal, the Council votes on it. There are rules about how many votes each country has, and how many are needed to pass a law. In some cases, the rule says the Council has to be in complete agreement.
Once the Council and the Parliament have passed a new law, EU governments have to make sure it is respected in their countries.
The Court of Justice
If a country doesn’t apply the law properly, the European Commission will warn it and may complain about it to the Court of Justice, in Luxembourg. The Court’s job is to make sure that EU laws are respected, and are applied in the same way everywhere. It has one judge from each EU country.
Find out more information about The Rights of the Child online.
Online quizzes for students
Balloon Game- know your rights as an EU citizen
Download documents to learn more about the EU:
This wallchart includes information about EU citizenship.