A common challenge about the various european entities is to be able to clearly differentiate between each of them based on their names and roles. This is often caused due to the usage of terms “Europe/European” and “Council” in the names of each of these entities. This post provides clarity on what these entities do with some additional context and history.
Institutions of the European Union
The Council of Europe, the European Council, and the Council of the European Union are three distinct entities that operate within the European Union (EU) system. While they are all related to the EU and European politics, they have different functions and roles. Each institution has its own role, but they all work together to create a single market and promote the economic and social wellbeing of the citizens of Europe.
The Council of Europe is the oldest of the three entities, having been founded in 1949. It is an international organization that is separate from the EU and has a broader mandate than the EU. The Council of Europe works to promote human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values across Europe. It has 46 member states (with the expulsion of Russia on 25 February 2022 by the Council of Europe), which include all EU member states as well as several non-EU European countries. The Council of Europe is headquartered in Strasbourg, France.
The European Council, on the other hand, is an EU institution that was established in 1975. It is composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, as well as the President of the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Council sets the overall direction and priorities of the EU and plays a key role in the decision-making process of the EU. It is the EU’s supreme political authority and its main decision-maker. It meets several times a year and is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
Finally, the Council of the European Union is also an EU institution, but it has a different role than the European Council. The Council of the European Union is composed of national ministers from each EU member state, and it is responsible for the legislative and decision-making process of the EU. The Council of the European Union plays a key role in the EU’s policy-making process, as it works together with the European Parliament to adopt EU laws and policies. The Council of the European Union is also headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
Other European Entities
The European Commission is the executive body of the EU, responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, and administering the day-to-day business of the EU.
The European Court of Justice (CJEU) is the judicial branch of the EU, responsible for interpreting and enforcing EU laws. Each of these entities has its own role and responsibilities in the functioning of the European Union.
The European Parliament is the directly elected legislative body of the EU, and its members are elected by citizens of the EU every five years.
Relationships and Dependencies
The following illustration summarizes the relationship between the above entities. It should be noted that The Council of Europe is one entity that is not part of the landscape. The illustration is based on the reference here.
In summary, the Council of Europe is an international organization that promotes human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values across Europe, while the European Council and the Council of the European Union are EU institutions that play important roles in the EU’s decision-making and policy-making processes.
If you consider European Council to be the board that sets the overall direction, then European Commission will be the CEO that should be responsible for proposing legislation, budget, and implementing the decisons of the council.