Institut d'etudes Européennes
De l'Université libre de Bruxelles

THE INSTITUTIONS AND DECISION MAKING IN THE EUROPEAN UNION - Professor Dr. Cristina Coteanu in collaboration with Mr Richard Corbett, Adviser to President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy

For more than 60 years, the EU has been built through a few binding treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by all EU Member States. Its 28 Member States have set up common institutions to which they delegate some of their sovereignty to set promote their collective interests. The EU has evolved from a purely economic organisation into a union covering many European policy areas.

The EU decision-making process is a complex mechanism that has evolved continuously over recent decades and is depending on the policy areas under consideration. Several institutions are involved, the most important being the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.

Through the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has taken huge strides to reform its governing institutions and decision-making processes in order to enable an enlarged EU to function more effectively.

In this course, we will focus on the EU Institutions, legislative procedures and non-legislative approaches, as well as on the evolution of European governance.

The course would approach the following topics:

1.The EU institutions: providing students with the empirical knowledge and transferable skills necessary to analyse and explain the EU’s institutions and its legitimacy ; explaining how the EU institutions work (the European Commission ; the Council of the EU and the European Council ; the European Parliament ; other EU institutions and bodies);
2. The EU Decision-Making: explaining the EU's decision-making procedures, both legislative and non-legislative procedures, explaining Delegating and Implementing Acts at the light of the Lisbon Treaty;
3. The distribution of power between the European Union and the Member States : the examination of the principles of « competence sharing » and of « conferred powers » ; "support, co-ordination and complementary action" ; explaining the three main categories of the EU and Member States' competences ; the role of national parliaments in the EU decision-making process;
4. The enhancement of representative democracy : the role played by the European Parliament ; the participatory democracy : the citizen participation in the Union's democratic life.

Learning Objectives:

The learning goal of the course is to ensure that students understand the role of the EU institutions, the complexities and dynamics of the EU decision-making process as well as the practical aspects of the work of the EU institutions.

The learning objectives are as follows:

  • To acquire a detailed understanding of the EU institutions and decision-making process;
  • To integrate empirical information to explain the influence of the EU institutions in the decision-making process;
  • To critically evaluate the challenges of the EU decision-making process.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To acquire a good understanding of the EU institutions and decision making power from the perspective of the Lisbon Treaty;
  • To explain how the enhancement of representative democracy and participatory democracy will support the EU to become one of the world's most competitive economy;
  • To be able to synthesise in writing the concepts and information provided through lectures, discussion and reading ;
  • To support students to prepare for the comprehensive exams with the EU institutions.

Methods and skills:

The class includes lectures, guest lectures and discussions. It also includes a case study/research paper.

Course requirements and grading:

  • Debate (which serves as an oral final examination) 30 %
  • Term paper (which serves as a final written exam) 40 %
  • Class participation 30 %