Written by Sebastian Richter.
Overview of key positions within the European Union
The EFFC works to promote the interest of 16 National Federations in Europe. As part of its mission the EFFC has to ensure that specific needs are taken into consideration during the European legislative process in order to create a sound business environment. Within the political system of the European Union are some key positions that are notably important for the functioning of the European Union. That is why I would like to illustrate them below:
The President of the European Parliament:
The President of the European Parliament chairs the plenary sittings of Parliament, the Conference of the Presidents of Political Groups and the Bureau of Parliament with its 14 Vice-Presidents. The President of the European Parliament represents the Parliament on the one hand within the European Union and on the other hand internationally in external relations. Besides, she or he represents Parliament in all legal matters. The President of the European Parliament is responsible for the application of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament. He or she oversees Parliament’s various activities and committees. In addition, the President of the European Parliament gives final assent to the European Union budget. He or she also takes part in Intergovernmental Conferences on new treaties. Jointly with the President-in-Office of the Council, the President of the European Parliament signs all legislative acts adopted by codecision.
The President of the European Parliament is elected by the Members of Parliament for a two-and-a-half-year term. Since 1 January 2012 the German Martin Schulz holds this office (from August 2014 till January 2017 for the current term).
The President of the European Council:
The President of the European Council chairs European Council meetings and drives forward its work in setting the European Union’s general political direction and priorities in cooperation with the European Commission. He or she ensures the preparation of European Council meetings and the continuity of their work. Besides, the President of the European Council helps to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council. The President of the European Council also presents a report to the European Parliament after each European Council meeting. Additionally, the President of the European Council ensures the external representation of the European Union on issues related to the European Common Foreign and Security Policy alongside the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and at international summits, alongside the President of the European Commission.
This office is elected by the European Council for a two-and-a-half term, with is renewable once. It is appointed by the national leaders (the heads of state or government of the Member States). Donald Tusk (Poland) is the current President of the European Council.
The President of the European Commission:
He or she decides on the organisation of the European Commission, allocates portfolios to members of the Commission and can make changes at any time. The European Commission President gives political guidance to the European Commission, calls and chairs meetings of the college of the Commissioners and leads the European Commission’s work in implementing European Union policies. The President of the European Commission also contributes to major debates both in the European Parliament and between European Union governments in the Council of the European Union. In addition, he or she takes part in G7 meetings and represents the European Commission in bilateral summits with third countries.
In November 2014 the Luxembourgish Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed by the heads of state or government of the European Union countries with the approval of the European Parliament. The team of 28 Commissioners is appointed every five years. The candidate for President of the Commission is proposed to the European Parliament by the European Council that decides by qualified majority and taking into account the elections to the European Parliament.
The European Ombudsman:
The European Ombudsman, which was established in 1995, investigates complaints about poor administration by European Union institutions or other Union’s bodies (like agencies). The Ombudsman’s office therefore launches investigations. It is an impartial body. As a consequence it takes no order from any government or other organisation. It produces an annual activity report for the European Parliament. Besides, the European Ombudsman may be able to solve problems simply by informing the institution concerned.
The Ombudsman is chosen by the European Parliament. The Parliament elects it for a renewable five-year term. The current Ombudsman is Emily O’Reilly (Ireland).
The most expressed complain is the lack of transparency of the European Union. The practice of trilogies is a special case. For though trilogies aren’t mentioned in the Treaties of the European Union they are more and more used in reality and consequently have become part of the European Union legislative process. Its special feature thereby is that a trilogy takes place behind closed doors, among a handful of high-level officials. A lack of transparency hence is an obvious defect. Therefore the European Ombudsman started investigation the lack of transparency within trilogies in May 2015. She has sent a letter to each of the three institutions expressing her concerns and asking them to reply to a series of questions.
To ensure a more transparent decision-making process within the European Union, the so-called “Transparency Register” was launched in 2011 to present information about what interests are being represented at the European Union level, who represents those interests, and on whose behalf and with what budgets. It builds on previous initiatives by the European Parliament and the European Commission. There is a public website where organisations representing particular interests at the European Union level register and inform about their interests.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy:
Although this position is not relevant in a high degree for the work of the EFFC, it will be shortly presented for the sake of completeness. The High Representative is charged with coordinating and carrying out the European Union’s foreign and security policy. Besides, the High Representative ensures the consistency of the external action as Vice-President of the Commission. One of the core task of the High Representative is to represent the European Union at international fora and to build consensus between the 28 Member States and their respective priorities.
The High Representative is appointed for a five-year term. Since 2014 Federica Mogherini (Italy) holds this office.