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European Union: Government#

CapitalBrussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg note - the European Council and the Council of the European Union meet in Brussels, Belgium; the European Parliament meets in Brussels and Strasbourg, France, and has administrative offices in Luxembourg; the Court of Justice of the European Union meets in Luxembourg Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg note - the European Council and the Council of the European Union meet in Brussels, ...
geographic coordinates: (Brussels) 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: the EU legal order, although based on a series of treaties, has often been described as "constitutional" in nature; the Treaty on European Union (TEU), as modified by the Lisbon Treaty, states in Article 1 that "the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION ... on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common"; Article 1 of the TEU states further that the EU is "founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as 'the Treaties')," both possessing the same legal value; Article 6 of the TEU provides that a separately adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union "shall have the same legal value as the Treaties" (2013)
Executive branchunder the EU treaties there are three distinct institutions, each of which conducts functions that may be regarded as executive in nature:
the European Council: brings together heads of state and government, along with the president of the European Commission, and meets at least four times a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the development of the Union and to issue general policy guidelines; leaders of the EU member states appointed former Belgian Prime Minister Herman VAN ROMPUY to be the first full-time president of the European Council in November 2009; he took office on 1 December 2009 for a two-and-one-half-year term, renewable once; EU member state leaders confirmed Herman VAN ROMPUY for a second and final two-and-one-half-year term in March 2012; his core responsibilities include chairing the EU summits and providing policy and organizational continuity
the Council of the European Union: consists of ministers of each EU member state and meets regularly in different configurations depending on the subject matter; it carries out policy-making and coordinating functions (as well as legislative functions); ministers of EU member states chair meetings of the Council of the EU based on a six-month rotating presidency
the European Commission: is headed by a College of Commissioners composed of 28 members, one from each member country; each commissioner is responsible for one or more policy areas; the Commission's responsibilities include the sole right to initiate EU legislation (except for foreign and defense policy), promoting the general interest of the EU, acting as "guardian of the Treaties," executing the budget and managing programs, ensuring the Union's external representation, and additional duties; its president is Jose Manuel BARROSO (since 2004); the president of the European Commission is nominated by member state governments taking into account the results of the European Parliament elections and elected by the European Parliament; working from member state recommendations, the Commission president then assembles the "college" of Commission members; the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a five-year term; the next confirmation process will likely be held in the fall of 2014
note: for external representation and foreign policy making, leaders of the EU member states appointed Catherine ASHTON of the United Kingdom to be the first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; ASHTON took office on 1 December 2009; her concurrent appointment as Vice President of the European Commission endows her position with the policymaking influence of the Council of the EU and the budgetary influence of the European Commission; the High Representative helps develop and implement the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, represents and acts for the Union in many international contexts, and oversees the European External Action Service (EEAS), the diplomatic corps of the EU, established on 1 December 2010
Flag descriptiona blue field with 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle in the center; blue represents the sky of the Western world, the stars are the peoples of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity; the number of stars is fixed
Independence7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the European Union); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)
note: the Treaties of Rome, signed on 25 March 1957 and subsequently entered into force on 1 January 1958, created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community; a series of subsequent treaties have been adopted to increase efficiency and transparency, to prepare for new member states, and to introduce new areas of cooperation - such as a single currency; the Treaty of Lisbon, signed on 13 December 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009 is the most recent of these treaties and is intended to make the EU more democratic, more efficient, and better able to address global problems with one voice
Judicial branchhighest court(s): Court of Justice of the European Union (organized into Court of Justice, General Court, and Civil Service Tribunal; consists of 28 judges, one from each of the member states)
note - the Court of Justice ensures that treaties are interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the EU, resolves disputed issues among the EU institutions, issues opinions on questions of EU law referred by member state courts;
judge selection and term of office: judges appointed for 6-year terms; note - the court may sit as a full court, in a "Grand Chamber" of 15 judges, or in chambers of 3 or 5 judges; General Court (a court below the Court of Justice) - 28 judges appointed for 6-year terms; Civil Service Tribunal - 7 judges appointed for 6-year terms
subordinate courts:
Legal systemunique supranational law system in which, according to an interpretive declaration of member-state governments appended to the Treaty of Lisbon, "the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the Treaties have primacy over the law of Member States" under conditions laid down in the case law of the Court of Justice; key principles of EU law include fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and as resulting from constitutional traditions common to the EU's states; EU law is divided into 'primary' and 'secondary' legislation; the treaties (primary legislation) are the basis for all EU action; secondary legislation - which includes regulations, directives and decisions - are derived from the principles and objectives set out in the treaties
Legislative branchtwo legislative bodies consisting of the Council of the European Union (28 member-state ministers having 352 votes; the number of votes is roughly proportional to member-states' population, and 255 votes plus a majority of member states forms a "qualified majority" to pass a measure) and the European Parliament (766 seats; seats allocated among member states in proportion to population; members elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term); note - the European Parliament President is elected by a majority of fellow members of the European Parliament (MEP), and represents the Parliament within the EU and internationally; German MEP Martin SCHULZ from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) was elected in January 2012; the Council of the EU is the main decision-making body of the EU, although the European Parliament must also approve almost all EU legislation; the Parliament does not have the right to initiate legislation
elections: last held on 22-25 May 2014 (next to be held May 2019)
election results: percent of vote - EPP 28.5%, S&D 25.2%, ALDE 8.7%, Greens/EFA 6.9%, ECR 6.1%, GUE/NGL 6.0%, EFD 5.1%, independents 5.5%, new parties 8.1%; seats by party - EPP 214, S&D 189, ALDE 66, Greens/EFA 52, ECR 46, GUE/NGL 45, EFD 38, independents 41, new parties 61
International organization participationARF (dialogue member), ASEAN (dialogue member), Australian Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS, CERN, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-8, G-10, G-20, IDA, IEA, IGAD (partners), LAIA (observer), NSG (observer), OAS (observer), OECD, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN (observer), UNRWA (observer), WCO, WTO, ZC (observer)
National holidayEurope Day 9 May (1950); note - the day in 1950 that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of what became the European Coal and Steel Community, the progenitor of today's European Union, with the aim of achieving a united Europe
Political parties and leadersConfederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL (Gabriele ZIMMER)
Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group or EFD (Nigel FARAGE and Francesco SPERONI)
European Conservatives and Reformists Group or ECR (Martin CALLANAN)
Group of Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA (Rebecca HARMS and Daniel COHN-BENDIT)
Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE (Guy VERHOFSTADT)
Group of the European People's Party or EPP (Joseph DAUL)
Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats or S&D (Hannes SWOBODA)
Suffrage18 years of age; universal; voting for the European Parliament is permitted in each member state
Diplomatic representation in the USchief of mission: Ambassador Joao VALE DE ALMEIDA (since 16 July 2010)
chancery: 2175 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: (1) (202) 862-9500
FAX: (1) (202) 429-1766
Union nameconventional long form: European Union
abbreviation: EU
Political structurea hybrid and unique intergovernmental and supranational organization
Member states28 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK; note - candidate countries: Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey
note: there are 9 Outermost Regions (OMR) that are considered part of the EU: Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloup, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion, and Saint Martin; and 7 special cases that are considered part of the EU: Aland, Busingen and Hochrhein, Campione d'Italia and Livigno, Ceuta and Melilla, Gibraltar, Helgoland, and Mount Athos; most citizens of Outermost countries and territories have EU citizenship
National anthemname: "Ode to Joy""
lyrics/music: none/Ludwig VON BEETHOVEN, arranged by Herbert VON KARAJAN
note: adopted 1972, not in use until 1986; according to the European Union, the song is meant to represent all of Europe rather than just the organization; the song also serves as the anthem for the Council of Europe
National symbol(s)a circle of 12 stars
Diplomatic representation from the USchief of mission: Ambassador Anthony L. GARDNER (since 12 February 2014)
embassy: 13 Zinnerstraat/Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: same as above
telephone: (32) (2) 811-4100
FAX: (32) (2) 811-5154