To fully appreciate the position of the European Council within the European Union we first took a brief look at how the European Union came about. The European project first started soon after the second world with the creation of the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) to harmonise relations between the Nations of Europe and to prevent any further conflicts of the scale of the wars that had preceded its creation. The new spirit of cooperation aimed to bring about a new era of peace and prosperity across Europe. The founding nations were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Luxemburg. The first enlargement came in 1973 when Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom joined the EU. Since then a further 18 countries have joined the Union making the European Union a family of 27 nations. There have been many treaties along the way which have shaped and formed how the European Union is today. We are going to be looking at the evolution of the European Council as an institution within the European Union. We will be examining the treaties and policies that were made that shaped the roles and responsibilities of the European Council. We will also examine how the actions of the European Council itself brought about their powers as an institution. Furthermore we will discuss and examine the responsibilities the European Council now has and the role it plays in the governance of the Union. In addition we will discuss where the balance of power now lies within the Union or indeed if there is a single dominant institution. Evolution of the European Council
The European Council first convened in 1974 as an informal discussion forum that heads of state or governments could meet to discuss issues regarding the direction of the European Community, although these meetings did take place from the late 1960’s on, it wasn’t until 1974 that the council was created. The European Community felt that it was necessary for the heads of state and governments to meet in a more informal setting because the other institutions where handicapped by red tape. For example the European Commission was weakened by the Luxemburg Compromise of 30 January 1966 which placed more emphasis on inter-governmental decision making; the Council of Ministers was handicapped by sectoralism and its policy of only proceeding on the basis of unanimity. The European Council gives the union the drive it needs to developed and defines the general political directions of the Union although it does not exercise any legislative functions. The European Council evolved outside the framework of treaties but the most recent treaties have made provisions the Council to inform or consult with the European Parliament. Over the years a process of constitutionalisation began with regards to power and position of the European Council, this happened in six steps. Step 1 was declarations which the Euro Council made which gave them more power, such as the declarations made in London and Stuggart in 1977 and 1983 respectively. These declarations were made with the purpose of clarifying their role but failed to do this to any great extent. Step 2 was the SEA (Single European Act) of 1986 which gave the European Council legal recognition for the first time and also clarified membership, and also reduced the number of meetings from three meetings a year to two meetings through two short paragraphs in the Act. Step 3 came in the shape of the Maastricht Treaty which expanded on the SEA and also gave the European Council more powers and responsibilities. It had 3 sets of references with regards to the European Council. Within the Maastricht Treaty the TEU (Treaty of Establishment of the European Union) was amended and the European Council was assigned responsibility for deciding the general direction of the European Union and also given important powers in relation to the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy). The final set of reference came within the TEC...
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