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EU decision-making

The European Council – summit between EU leaders

The European Council draws up guidelines for EU activities in the long term, but does not make any decisions regarding EU rules. The summit meetings take place four times a year. If necessary, extra summit meetings can be arranged.

The European Council consists of a President, the heads of state and government of the member states, and the President of the European Commission. The European Council elects its President for a two-and-a-half-year term.

How does EU decision-making work?

Sweden and the other member states decide on new EU rules together. This means that Sweden can influence EU decisions, but in certain cases Sweden also has to observe EU decisions that it opposes.

This is how it works when Sweden and the other member states agree on new EU rules:

1. The European Commission proposes a new law

The European Commission is charged with the task of proposing new laws. All the member states each have one Commissioner. The Commissioners' role is to promote the best interests of the EU as a whole, rather than representing their own particular countries.

2. The Government and the Swedish Parliament - the Riksdag - adopt a position

The European Commission sends its proposals to all the member states. In Sweden, they are submitted to the Government and the Riksdag. The Government informs the Riksdag of its view of the proposals and collects comments from the Riksdag. It is the Government that presents Sweden's views.

3. The European Parliament decides

The European Parliament participates in deciding on the EU's new laws. The MEPs are elected in general elections, and 20 of them are elected in Sweden.

In the case of most issues, the European Parliament decides together with the Council of Ministers. For certain issues, the European Parliament does not make the decisions. These include EU foreign and security policy.

4. The Council of Ministers decides

The Swedish Government and all the other governments of the EU member states each participate in the EU Council of Ministers with one minister. The Council of Ministers decides on new EU legislation.

The Swedish Government will have discussed the proposals with the Riksdag in advance.

5. Sweden implements the legislation

Once the Council of Ministers has decided on a new law, Sweden and the other member states will introduce the law. Sometimes the Riksdag may need to make amendments to Swedish laws to make them agree with the EU's new laws. In other cases, the EU's laws take immediate effect.

Scrutiny by the Riksdag

In addition to scrutinising and giving its views to the Government, the Swedish Parliament – the Riksdag – also has another task in common with the other national parliaments in the EU. When the EU proposes new laws in certain areas, the parliaments in the member states must first examine whether the rules are needed at EU level or whether it is better that each member state decides on the rules individually. This examination may result in the Commission having to reconsider its proposal.

What happens if Sweden does not follow EU rules?

The European Commission checks that member states follow the laws that the EU has decided upon. If the Commission considers that Sweden is not doing this, it may sue Sweden in the EU Court of Justice.

The task of the EU Court is then to decide on whether Sweden has violated EU rules. Swedish courts may also turn to the EU Court of Justice with questions on how EU rules should be interpreted.

If you consider that Sweden or any other member state is not following EU rules, you can report this yourself to the European Commission.

The European Commission

  • The Commissioners' role is to promote the best interests of the EU as a whole, rather than representing their own particular countries.
  • The European Commission is appointed for a period of five years by the governments of the member states.
  • The European Parliament has to approve the European Commission.

The European Parliament

  • Elections to the European Parliament take place every five years.
  • The citizens in each country vote their members into the Parliament.
  • Countries with large populations have more representatives than countries with small populations.

Council of Ministers

  • The government minister responsible for the particular issue for discussion participates in the Council. For example, if environmental issues are on the agenda, the Minister for the Environment will participate.
  • In most cases, the Council can decide when a majority is in favour of the proposal. In the case of certain issues, all ministers in the Council must be in agreement for a decision to be taken.

EU Court of Justice

  • The EU Court of Justice has one judge from each member state.
  • The judges are appointed by the governments of the member states for a period of six years.
Senast uppdaterad: 2014-01-02

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