EU LawEU Law: The Council of Ministers and the European Council are the most powerful of the main institutions. Discuss.
The different functions and responsibilities of each of the institutions makes it is almost impossible to single out the most powerful. Power, meaning by definition authority and control. The Commission "the guardian of treaties", The European Parliament "the voice of democracy", The Court of Justice, in theory, "the servant of community law", and The Council "the decision maker", all play a vital role in the performance of the European Community . None of the institutions works in isolation, but combine together to achieve the aims and objectives of the Community. Their level of power is determined not only by the role of the institutions themselves but also the decision making process. Therefore in order to evaluate the levels of power it is necessary to examine each of the five main institutions and then to briefly establish their capacities within each decision making process.


Described as being "a hydra-headed conglomerate of a dozen or more functional councils" (Pinder p25), The Council Of Ministers comprises 40 different councils of national civil servants. Backed by a governmental department, most ministers realise that they have a responsibility to try to reach agreements that will be of some benefit to the Community as a whole, although the national governments are able to exert an influence over Community legislation. A Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) which is charged with the background work and The Council Of Ministers is in permanent session. The Council meets in Brussels and Luxembourg, however the presidency which is described as a country\'s opportunity to "show it\'s commitment to Europe" (Noel p24) rotates every six months and during this time meetings are held in whichever country holds presidency.


Combining legislative, executive and diplomatic roles, it\'s function is fundamentally to examine Commission proposals, ensuring that there is a common understanding and then establish whether the proposal can be accepted. It is The Council Of Ministers\' job to try to co-ordinate the policies of the Member States in areas where the Community\'s method is still co-operation and not integration, for example areas such as macroeconomic policy and foreign policy. Despite being the main decision making body it can only deal with proposals coming from the Commission, may only amend them by unanimity and has no power of legislation without the Commission\'s approval. Decisions are taken by the ministers and, once a decision is adopted, recommendations are usually put to the Member States although they do not carry legal force. However, the less important decisions may be adopted without debate, as long as the permanent representatives and commission representatives are unanimous.


Also assisted by COREPER and a General Secretariat and consisting of heads of state or government, the president of the EEC Commission, foreign affairs ministers and members of the Commission. The European Council is an extension of the Council Of Ministers to the levels of heads of government or state. Although there was no provision for a European Council in the Treaty Of Rome, it was agreed in 1974 to establish one, the first meeting being in Dublin, 1st March 1975. Since then it is the only institution to have gained full competence in the Single European Act, giving legal recognition to it\'s existence. In 1986 it was also agreed in 1986 to restrict meetings to twice a year (having previously been three times a year), with a view to limiting the intervention of The European Council in the general running of the Community.


Linked with the growing authority of the heads of state or government in most member states, the importance of the European Council is steadily increasing. Despite having no legislative powers the European Council is vital in resolving log-jams, pushing the Community forwards and it sets an agenda for Community objectives. The decisions made have significant implications on the Community and although the methods for laying the guidelines lead to difficulties regarding the implementation, they are decidedly effective.


The Commission, incorporates one commissioner from each of the smaller member states plus two from France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. Seventeen commissioners and their "cabinet\'s" of either four or five people are responsible for their individual specialised areas. The Commission is headed by a president