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World > > European Union > Government (Facts)

European Union - Government (Facts)
Capital: name: Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg
geographic coordinates: 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
Independence: 7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the EU); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)
National holiday: Europe Day 9 May (1950); note - a Union-wide holiday, the day that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community to achieve an organized Europe
Constitution: based on a series of treaties: the Treaty of Paris, which set up the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951; the Treaties of Rome, which set up the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1957; the Single European Act in 1986; the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht) in 1992; the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997; and the Treaty of Nice in 2003; note - a new draft Constitutional Treaty, signed on 29 October 2004 in Rome, gave member states two years for ratification either by parliamentary vote or national referendum before it was scheduled to take effect on 1 November 2006; defeat in French and Dutch referenda in May-June 2005 dealt a severe setback to the ratification process; in June 2007, the European Council agreed on a clear and concise mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference to form a political agreement and put it into legal form; this agreement, known as the Reform Treaty, is to serve as a constitution and will be presented to the European Council in October 2007, in order to begin the ratification process
Legal system: comparable to the legal systems of member states; first supranational law system
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of union: President of the European Commission Jose Manuel DURAO BARROSO (since 22 November 2004)
cabinet: European Commission (composed of 27 members, one from each member country; each commissioner responsible for one or more policy areas)
elections: the president of the European Commission is designated by member governments and is confirmed by the European Parliament; working from member state recommendations, the Commission president then assembles a 'college' of Commission members; the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a five-year term; the last confirmation process was held 18 November 2004 (next to be held in 2009)
election results: European Parliament approved the European Commission by an approval vote of 449 to 149 with 82 abstentions
note: the European Council brings together heads of state and government and the president of the European Commission and meets at least four times a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the major political issues relating to European integration and to issue general policy guidelines
Legislative branch: two legislative bodies consists of the Council of the European Union (27 member-state ministers having 345 votes; the number of votes is roughly proportional to member-states' population; note - the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU) and the European Parliament (785 seats, as of 1 January 2007; seats allocated among member states by proportion to population; members elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term)
elections: last held 10-13 June 2004 (next to be held June 2009)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - EPP-ED 268, PES 202, ALDE 88, Greens/EFA 42, EUL/NGL 41, IND/DEM 36, UEN 27, independents 28; note - seats by party as of 1 January 2007 - EPP-ED 277, PES 218, ALDE 106, UEN 44, Greens/EFA 42, EUL/NGL 41, IND/DEM 23, ITS 20, independents 14
Judicial branch: Court of Justice of the European Communities (ensures that the treaties are interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the EU; resolve constitutional issues among the EU institutions) - 27 justices (one from each member state) appointed for a six-year term; note - for the sake of efficiency, the court can sit with 13 justices known as the 'Grand Chamber'; Court of First Instance - 27 justices appointed for a six-year term
Political parties and leaders: Confederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left or EUL/NGL [Francis WURTZ]; European People's Party-European Democrats or EPP-ED [Joseph DAUL]; Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE [Graham R. WATSON]; Group of Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Monica FRASSONI and Daniel Marc COHN-BENDIT]; Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty Group or ITS [Bruno GOLLNISCH]; Independence/Democracy Group or IND/DEM [Jens-Peter BONDE and Nigel FARAGE]; Socialist Group in the European Parliament or PES [Martin SCHULZ]; Union for Europe of the Nations Group or UEN [Brian CROWLEY and Cristiana MUSCARDINI]
International organization participation: European Union: ARF (dialogue member), ASEAN (dialogue member), IDA, OAS (observer), UN (observer)
European Community: Australian Group, CBSS, CERN, FAO, EBRD, G-10, NAM (observer), NSG (observer), OECD, UNRWA, WTO, ZC (observer)
European Central Bank: BIS
European Investment Bank: EBRD, WADB (nonregional member)
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador John BRUTON
chancery: 2300 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: [1] (202) 862-9500
FAX: [1] (202) 429-1766
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador C. Boyden GRAY
embassy: 13 Zinnerstraat/Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: same as above
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2222
FAX: [32] (2) 512-5720
Flag description: on a blue field, 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle, representing the union of the peoples of Europe; the number of stars is fixed


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