How does the EU work?

Last updated at 15:17
Flags in front of European Commission in Belgium.Getty Images
Flags in front of the European Commission in Belgium.

The European Union is a club of 29 countries from around Europe, whose governments work together.

There are seven official EU institutions, which work together to run the EU.

  • The European Commission does the day-to-day work of running the EU. It does things like proposing new laws for the European Parliament to vote on, and makes sure that that the laws the European Parliament has passed are used properly. It is based in Brussels (Belgium).
  • The European Parliament decides whether suggestions from the European Commission should be made into new laws. It helps to decide how much money the EU should spend. It also checks that all the other parts of the EU are working fairly. It is based across Strasbourg (France), Brussels (Belgium) and Luxembourg.
  • The European Council sets the general political direction and priorities of the EU, but it does not pass laws. That's the parliament's job. Heads of state or government of EU countries are members, so Prime Minister Theresa May is currently a member of this. Its members usually meet four times a year to talk about important issues affecting their countries. It is based in Brussels (Belgium).
  • The Council of the European Union is like the voice of EU member governments when it comes to EU laws and policy. It's like a school council, but instead of people from each year, there are people from each country. Who turns up depends on what the council is talking about. For example, if they're talking about farming laws, then farming ministers from each country will come. Together with the European Parliament, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU. It is based in Brussels (Belgium).
  • The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ensures that all countries and institutions that are part of the EU are following EU laws properly and in the same way. It also settles any legal arguments between members. It has one judge from each EU country, plus 11 other important staff called advocates general. It is based in Luxembourg.

The European Central Bank (which manages the euro and deals with economic issues) the European Court of Auditors (which checks EU funds are collected and used correctly, and managed well) make up the other two official institutions.

Jean-Claude Juncker.Getty Images
This man, Jean-Claude Juncker, is the current president of the European Commission

There is also something called European Economic Area (EEA), which includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows these countries to have special deals with each other as part of something called the EU's single market.

According to the EU's official website: "In the EU's single market (sometimes also called the internal market), people, goods, services and money can move around the EU as freely as within a single country. EU citizens can study, live, shop, work and retire in any EU country - and enjoy products from all over Europe."