The European Council – I part
The European Council is the main body of the European Union, since it is the institution channelling the highest powers of the European Union; in fact, it is the main decision-making body, where the most important and sensitive decisions are taken. The European Council is made up of the Heads of State and Government. Besides the 25 Heads of State – today, as you know, they are 27, even if two member states, Romania and Bulgaria, are present only as observers – there is the President of the Commission, together with the Secretary-General of the Council, the Highest Representative, that is Javier Solana. At the beginning, the European Council was not conceived as an institution, but as a body that should give a policy stance and political reference, a sort of meeting of Heads of State and Government, round the fireside. The idea was the following: the Heads of State and Government exchanged ideas, information and also their thoughts in order to enhance the European construction and to give a political stance, leaving the task of implementing the integration of the European Union to the institutions. In many occasions the European Council has given some vital impulses and it has often had this important role under the Italian chairmanship, especially when an impulse to the integration was necessary. Italy can rightly assert to have chaired some European Councils that have been fundamental for the development of the Union. But after having said that, let’s talk again about the functions of this body. Its functions are merely of policy stance, but now- in the Single Treaty and in the Maastricht Treaty and also in the constitutional Treaty, it has been indicated as a body of the European Union, and this means that it has not only a policy stance function, but it can also take some decisions whenever the other councils have not been able to take them. In fact, this has determined a shift of all the most important decisions to that institutional body, sometimes misrepresenting all the activity done by the General Affairs Council. The European Council must take some very important decisions concerning the economic, social and environment policy; the council translates its decisions in written form that represent the guidelines the member states will have to follow. The approval of the great guidelines of economic policy that determine the economic policy of the European Union is very important. The other fields in which the Council acts as an absolute sovereign are foreign and security policy. It is exactly in the areas where there is the greatest demise of sovereignty from the member states that the European Council takes on its role: when a concrete decision concerning foreign policy has to be taken, it is evident that the European Council becomes the most appropriate place. I’d say that when we speak of foreign policy, more than resembling an institution of the European Union, the Council seems to be a sort of European meeting: like the meeting of those powers that after the Congress of Vienna met in Europe to determine the guidelines to guarantee a certain degree of stability to the continent. That’s exactly why the European constitution has intervened: to give a greater consistency and functionality to this important institution of the Union.
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