The English Legal System Can No Longer Be Considered on Its Own, but Has to Be Understood Within the Context of the European Union and Its Institutions. What Are the Institutions Referred to and What Is Their Impact on the English Legal System?

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  • Topic: European Union, Treaty of Lisbon, European Parliament
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  • Published : February 15, 2013
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The European Community was set up by the EEC Treatyin 1957, and the UK joined the Community in 1973.

On joining the Community, now called the European Union, the UK and its citizens became subject to EC law. This subjection to European law remains the case, even where the parties to any transaction are themselves both UK subjects. In other words, in areas where it is applicable, European law supersedes any existing UK law to the contrary.

Community law consists primarily of the EC Treaty and any amending legisla¬tion such as the Single European Act to which the UK acceded in 1986, the Maastricht Treaty 1992 and the Treaty of Nice 2001. However the most recent reform was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, signed by all the members in 2007 and subsequently ratified by them individually by the autumn of 2009. The necessary altercations to the fundamental treaties governing the EU, brought about by the Lisbon Treaty, was published at the end of March 2010. As a result there are three newly consolidated treaties:

The Treaty or: European Union (TEU)

Article 1 of this treaty makes it clear that 'The Union shall be founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as 'the Treaties'). Those two Treaties shall have the same legal value. The Union shall replace and succeed the European Community.'

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)

Article 2 of this treaty provides that:

'When the Treaties confer on the Union exclusive competence in a specific area, only the Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do so themselves only if so empowered by the Union or for the implementation of Union acts.'

Article 3 specifies that the Union shall have exclusive competence in the following areas:

(a)customs union;
(b)the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market; (c)monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro; (d)the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy; (e)common commercial policy.

Additionally Article 3 provides that the Union shall also have exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion is provided for in a legislative act of the Union or is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or in so far as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU)

Many member states, including the UK, have negotiated opt outs of some of the provisions of the charter.

The EC Treaty, as subsequently amended by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, provides for two types of legislation: regulations and directives:

(a) Regulations under TFEU Art 288 (formerly Art 249 of the EC Treaty) apply to, and within, member states generally without the need for those states to pass their own legislation. They are binding and enforceable, therefore, from the time of their creation within the European Context and need no further validation by national Parliaments.

(b) Directives, on the other hand, are in theory supposed to state general goals and leave the precise implementation to individual member states in the form that they consider appropriate. In practice, however, directives tend to state the means, as well as the ends, to which they are aimed and the ECJ will give direct effect to directives which are sufficiently clear and complete.

The major institutions of the EU are: the Council; the European Parliament; the Economic and Social Committee; the Commission; and the ECJ.

The Council

The Lisbon Treaty established two new offices:

President of the European Union, a position currently held by Herman Van Rompuy of Belgium; and

High Representative for Foreign Affairs, effectively that of EU foreign minister,...
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