The European Economic Community was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. At that time it was made up of only six countries.
The Treaty of Maastricht created the European Union (EU).
The Council Of Ministers
The Council of Ministers is made up of ministers who represent each of the EU member states. The Council of Ministers makes the final legal decisions on important issues based, mainly, on proposals from the European Commission. The Council represents the interests of the various national governments. Since the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty, the European Parliament also plays a part in the law-making process.
The presidency of the EU rotates every six months, in alphabetical order of country. The country which holds the EU presidency also presides over the Council of Ministers for that period.
The European Commission
The European Commission is the institution responsible for ensuring that the measures in the Treaties are carried out. Members of the European Commission are nominated for a five year term of office by each member state. The UK traditionally appoints one commissioner from the government and another from the opposition. The president of the European Commission is appointed by the government of member states. The European Commission is based in Brussels.
The European Parliament
The European Parliament is composed of publicly elected members from each member state. Elections are held every five years. The European Parliament is divided into political rather than national groupings, for example, the Socialist Group, the Christian Democratic Group and the Green Group. MEPs choose which group they wish to belong to.
The European Ombudsman can investigate maladministration in the activities of the European community institutions and bodies. These bodies include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the Court of Justice.
The Ombudsman will try to find a solution through conciliation to put matters right and satisfy the complainant. If the attempt at conciliation fails the European Ombudsman can make recommendations to the institution to solve the case. If the institution does not accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the Ombudsman can make a special report on the matter to the European parliament.