Assessing the power of the institutions of the European Union is not an easy task. The European Union is such a particular and unique international organization that understanding it means involves studying the many different levels that composed it simultaneously. Thus, to tackle the question "Is the legislative power of the Council being increasingly eroded in the recent years?" it is imperative to focus the relations of competition and co-operation that occurs between the institutions at an inter-institutional level. The Council has always been the chief decision-making body of the European Union, but the debate about its supposed decreasing legislative powers has been settled only over the last ten years. The rise of the European Parliament is obvious, but the question that arises is, if this rise occurred at the expense of the legislative power of the Council of Ministers. It is thus important to assess its powers at an inter-institutional level.
[...] Firstly, it is important to record the legislative powers of the Council to then asses if they have declined or not. The Council of Ministers is supposed to be the European Union's principal legislator. Let's first look at its composition. The word Council is, I think, a mistake if it is supposed to describe the nature of this institution. This word is not large enough to cover all what it is about. There are Councils. First, vertically, it is possible to describe a hierarchy in the Council. [...]
[...] The president of the Council changes every six months. His responsibilities are numerous. He has to organize and chair the meetings of the Council of Ministers, and to be the initiator of consensus between the ministers. He represents the Council of Ministers vis-à-vis other institutions and nonmember countries. His role has increased during the 1970s, especially because of the increase in the powers of the European Council. Two main criticisms are usually addressed to this function: the 1 brevity of the term is obviously at stake and do the new smaller countries have the capacity to cope with the function of presidency as wells as the bigger do? [...]
[...] Neill Nugent The Government and Politics of the European Union. P 5th Edition. A second reason for the independence of the members of the auxiliary bodies is that their ministers from the Council are often too busy to monitor their activities and prefer to trust them. Moreover, the orders that the national representatives in COREPER or in the working groups receive from their national governments often arrive too late. Last, it is possible that the auxiliary bodies' members influence the position of their national governments. [...]
[...] Now that the basis of the Council of Ministers is set up, I have to focus on its main function, the decision-making function. Indeed, according to the article 145 of the European Community Treaty, it has the power to take decision. But this does not apply in the same way regarding as it is acting under pillars or 3. Under pillars 2 or the Council has total independence in its choice whereas under pillar 1 it is submitted to the proposal of the Commission and the joint decision of the European Parliament. [...]
[...] I will now recall the different ways of taking decisions, that is to say the different voting mechanisms. The main voting mechanisms which are competing are "unanimity" "simple majority" and "qualified majority". Under simple majority voting, each state has a vote. It is used for procedures mainly. Unanimity is required for the second and third pillar questions voting. It is the Single European Act which has reduced the area in which unanimity voting can be applied. Unanimity is also used to 2 amend Commission's proposal against the Commission's wishes. [...]
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