The Council of the European Union is the main decision making body of the European Union. Depending on the issue, ministers from each member state meet to enact laws, usually legislating jointly with the European Parliament, co-ordinate economic policy, define and implement common foreign and security policy, conclude international agreements,adopt measures in the area of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, and along with the European Parliament, create a budget for the European Union.
Often called the "Guardian of the Treaties", the European Commission ensures that European Union law is properly applied by individuals, national authorities, and other European Union institutions. The Commission may impose sanctions on individuals or companies who violate European Union law, and may take formal action against national authorities suspected of violating European Union law, including taking national authorities to the European Court of Justice. The Commission also proposes new legislation, which may be adopted by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.
The European Parliament is the only directly elected institution of the European Union. Its 766 members are elected once every five years by the citizens of the 28 member states. In some cases, the European Parliament shares legislative power with the Council of the European Union, and may accept, amend, or reject proposed legislation (the codecision procedure). For other areas, such as taxation, industrial policy, and agricultural policy, the European Parliament gives only an advisory opinion (the consultation procedure). The European Parliament can present legislative proposals to the European Commission, and oversees the European Commission's annual program of work.
The Court of Justice of the European Union actually consists of three courts: the Court of Justice, the General Court (formerly the Court of First Instance) and the Civil Service Tribunal. The two major adjudicative bodies are the Court of Justice and the General Court. Depending upon the subject matter of a case, the Court of Justice or the General Court may review the legality of institutional acts, ensure that Member States comply with Treaty obligations and interpret European Union law at the request of the courts and tribunals of Member States. The Court of Justice and the General Court each has 28 judges, appointed to renewable 6 year terms, and hear cases as a Grand Chamber of 13 judges or in chambers of 3 to 5 judges. Rulings of the General Court may be appealed on points of law to the Court of Justice. Judgments of the Court of Justice and the General Court are available in the European Court of Justice Reports, and are also available on LEXIS/NEXIS, WESTLAW and HeinOnline.