The EU politics in unique due to the unique nature of the EU. On the one hand, the EU politics is very similar to that of a confederation. Just like the latter, the Union has common institutions that make decisions in the name of all member states. But in contrary to most states that are organised as confederations, the EU has very little power in some areas, especially foreign policy, taxation and defence.
Rather than by common institutions of the EU, these areas are almost exclusively in the domain of the member states. There is cooperation and consultation in the most sensitive areas to a certain degree but in most cases, the EU must gain consent of all member states to be able to take any major actions in the mentioned areas.
EU Political Institutions
The EU policy is made by four common institutions:
- the European Council
- the European Parliament
- the Council of the European Union
- the European Commission
The Parliament and the Council of the European Union are legislative bodies of the Union. The Parliament consists of 754 Members of Parliament who are directly elected, while the Council is made up from national governments. Both consider laws that are proposed by the Commission which is also responsible for everyday functioning of the Union. The highest political body, however, is the European Council that consists of national leaders. The President of the European Council has very little power and is appointed for 2 ½ year term by the leaders of the EU member states. The role and responsibility of the mentioned EU institutions are more detailed discussed in the article “EU Institutions”.
EU Political Parties
Political parties on the European level don’t exist. The political groups in the Parliament sit and vote together on the basis of ideological similarities and are divided on left and right groups. The largest political groups in the European Parliament are the Party of European Socialists which can be defined as centre-left and the European People’s Party which joins centre-right politicians. In the recent years, left and right groups have also been joined by Pro-European and Euro-sceptic groups with the latter being in minority. The most famous Euro-sceptic political group in the Parliament is the Europe of Freedom and Democracy that is headed by Nigel Farage from the UK Independence Party and Francesco Speroni from Lega Nord.
EU Foreign Policy
The EU foreign policy remains a major challenge and the member states have difficulties reaching a common position on foreign affairs which greatly undermines the weight of the EU in international politics. The EU foreign affairs are led by the Common Foreign and Security Policy, while the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is viewed as an unofficial foreign minister of the EU.