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Friday, June 24, 2011

The European Council: Head of State of the E.U.

Concerning the European Council and the Council of the E.U., it can reasonably be asked whether such similar nomenclature is really necessary. It can be quite confusing. For example, I didn't realize that the European Council does not legislate; I had assumed that the Council of Ministers (a.k.a. the Council of the E.U.) handled the technical aspects of E.U. legislation while the European Council votes on broad and highly significant legislation.  Instead, the European Council "sets the EU's goals and the course for achieving them. It provides the impetus for the EU's main policy initiatives and resolves issues that cannot be settled at the ministerial level. It does not legislate." In contrast, the Council of the EU (aka the Council of Ministers) "adopts EU laws, a responsibility it shares with the European Parliament in most policy areas."  The Council of the E.U. also "concludes international agreements between the EU and other countries . . . ; plays a key role in the development of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), based on guidelines set by the European Council." It is the Council of the E.U., rather than the European Council, that corresponds to the U.S. Senate. Beyond both bodies representing state governments, the unique foreign policy role is shared by both “upper chambers.” An implication is that cabinet secretaries in the American state governments could replace U.S. Senators (and, conversely, the people of the European states could elect delegates or senators to represent their states in the Council of the E.U.).  In my view, the use of state cabinet secretaries (and having the governor’s association set the U.S. agenda) would be an improvement on senators (and the U.S. President in setting the Union’s agenda).  Such a change would reinvigorate American federalism against continued consolidation.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.