EU institutions

The institutional and organisational framework of the European Union

The European Union (EU) has an institutional framework designed to promote and defend its values, its objectives, its interests, as well as those of its citizens and of EU countries. This framework also helps ensure coherence, effectiveness and continuity of EU policies and actions.

As per Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union, the institutional framework consists of seven institutions:

  • The European Parliament
  • The European Council
  • The Council of the European Union (a.k.a. “the Council”)
  • The European Commission
  • The Court of Justice of the European Union
  • The European Central Bank
  • The Court of Auditors.

The European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission have regulatory decision-making powers and operate in a coordinated manner. As a rule, it is up to the Commission to propose new rules, while it is up to the Parliament and the Council to adopt them. The Commission is also in charge of monitoring correct application of rules by EU Member States.

For more information, see the following links:

EUROPA – European Union Portal

Permanent Representation of Italy to the EU

EU institutions at a glance

Guide to the Ordinary Legislative Procedure


The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens to represent their interests. Its main task is to adopt European laws. The Parliament shares this responsibility with the Council of the European Union, while legislative proposals are made by the European Commission. The Parliament and the Council are also jointly in charge of approving the EU’s annual budget. The Parliament is based in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

European Parliament website

European Parliament – Office in Italy

European Parliament Press Service

Parliamentary committees

Members of the Parliament

The Parliament at a glance


The European Council defines the general political directions and priorities of the European Union and, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, became an institution. It is composed of the heads of state or government of EU countries, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. The European Council manages complex and/or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at lower levels of intergovernmental cooperation, defines the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, and nominates and elects candidates for certain high-profile roles, including the ECB and the Commission. The European Council is based in Brussels.

European Council website

The European Council at a glance


The Council of the European Union shares with the European Parliament the task of adopting legislation and political decisions. The Council also bears the main responsibility for EU actions in the field of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as of some justice and freedom issues. The Council consists of ministers from the national governments of all EU countries. Meetings are attended by the ministers responsible for the subject matters on the agenda. The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is held in turn by EU Member States every six months. Member States holding the presidency work closely together in groups of three, so-called “trios”. The Council of the European Union is based in Brussels.

Council of the European Union website

The Council of the European Union at a glance

Presidency semester


The European Commission represents and defends the interests of the European Union as a whole. Independent of national governments, the Commission prepares proposals for new European legislation, which it then submits to the European Parliament and the Council. The European Commission manages the day-to-day work for implementation of EU policies and allocation of EU funds. The Commission monitors compliance with European legislation and treaties, and can bring actions before the Court of Justice against those violating the rules. The European Commission is based in Brussels.

European Commission website

Directorates-General and Services

Representations in the Member States

Representation in Italy  

Advisory and information services

Press Office

The European Commission at a glance


The Court of Justice of the European Union is in charge of ensuring that EU law is interpreted and applied in the same way in all EU countries, thus ensuring that the law is the same for everyone. The Court of Justice of the European Union ensures, for example, that national courts do not rule differently on the same issue and that Member States and EU institutions comply with their legal obligations. The Court consists of one judge from each Member State and is based in Luxembourg.

For more information, see the judgments, orders and opinions of the Advocates General:

Court of Justice and Court of First Instance


The European Central Bank (ECB) was established in 1998 by the Treaty on European Union to operate as part of the “European System of Central Banks” (ESCB), composed of the central banks of all EU Member States. The ECB is responsible for managing the euro; its main task is to ensure price stability so that the EU economy does not suffer from negative inflationary pressures. The ECB takes its decisions independently of governments and other bodies. It is based in Frankfurt.

To find out more, download documentation and publications from the European Monetary Institute:

European Central Bank website


The European Court of Auditors oversees the legality and regularity of the revenues and expenditures of the European Union budget and ensures sound financial management. The European Court of Auditors checks that EU funds are spent in a lawful and cost-effective manner and are used for the intended purposes. The Court is entitled to audit the accounts of any organisation, body or firm using EU funds. The European Commission is based in Luxembourg.

Find out more and consult reports or opinions:

European Court of Auditors website

The other bodies of the European Union

In addition to the institutions provided for in the Treaty, the organisational framework of the European Union provides for a number of bodies and entities with advisory, financial and control functions.


The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is consulted on forthcoming EU decisions that may have a direct local or regional impact in areas such as transport, health, employment or education. The CoR is composed of representatives from local and regional authorities (presidents of regional governments or mayors) that represent the regions’ interests at EU level. The European Committee of the Regions is based in Brussels.

European Committee of the Regions website


The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body in charge of providing its opinions on proposals for EU decisions in areas such as employment, social spending or vocational training. The members of the European Economic and Social Committee represent a wide range of interests: from employers to trade unionists, from consumers to environmentalists. The EESC is based in Brussels.

Find out more and consult EESC activities, documents and working groups:

European Economic and Social Committee website


The European External Action Service (EEAS) is the Union’s diplomatic service. As such, its tasks include managing diplomatic relations with countries outside the EU and assisting the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy.

European External Action Service website


The European Investment Bank (EIB) finances projects of European interest, especially in most disadvantaged regions – in particular, infrastructure projects such as rail or road links, airports or environmental programmes. The EIB provides investment loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to candidate countries and developing countries. As it is owned by EU governments, the EIB can raise capital and provide credit at favourable rates. It is based in Luxembourg.

European Investment Bank website


The European Ombudsman investigates cases of maladministration by EU institutions and bodies. The complaints assessed by the European Ombudsman can be made by EU citizens or residents and EU-based enterprises.

European Ombudsman website


The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) enforces compliance with European citizens’ privacy rules by EU institutions and bodies.

European Data Protection Supervisor website


European agencies are specialised offices providing help and advice to Member States and their citizens, and assistance to EU institutions. They work autonomously, help implement EU policies, and strengthen cooperation between the EU and national governments, bringing together the technical and specialist expertise available at national level and within EU institutions. Decentralised agencies are set up for an indefinite period and are based in several EU countries.

EU agencies and other bodies