How Does the European Union Ensure Accountability?

2263 words (9 pages) Essay in Politics

08/02/20 Politics Reference this

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The European Union consists of 28 nations that works as a firm financial and political square. The euro currency is currently utilized by nineteen of the nations as their official currency. The point of EU was to shape a single European political entity as an effort to end the warfare between European nations amid World War II. In 1993 the European Single Market was established by 12 nations to safeguard the so-called four freedoms: The movement of goods, services, individuals and currency. [1]This essay focuses on the developments made by the EU to ensure legitimacy, accountability and effective compliance in its principal areas of competence.

The competences of the European Union are defined in the EU Treaties which can be found in article 2 to 6 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU). [2]One should note that there are four different type of competences. They are Exclusive Competence, Shared Competence, Competence to support, coordinate or supplement actions of the member states and finally the Competence to provide arrangements within which EU member states must coordinate policy. The definitions of these competences shall be further explained below. 

Article 3 of the TFEU explains the areas in which the union shall have exclusive competence. The following areas are customs union, the creation of the competition rules required for the internal market, monetary policy for the member states whose currency is the euro, the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy and finally the common commercial policy. [3]Furthermore, under Art 3 it expresses that the Union will likewise possess exclusive competence for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion is accommodated for in a legislative act of the Union or is important to enable the Union to practice its internal competence, or in so far as its conclusion may influence common rules or modify their scope.[4]

Moving further as stated in article 4 of the TFEU, shared competence applies in 11 different principal areas between the Member States and the Union. The principal areas are internal market; social policy for the aspects defined in this treaty; economic; social and territorial cohesion; agriculture and fisheries; excluding the conservation of marine biological resources; environment; consumer protection; transport; trans-European networks; energy; area of freedom, security and justice and finally common safety measures for public health issues for the aspects defined in this Treaty .[5] In it, it also stated that In the territories of research, technological improvement and space, the Union will have skill to complete activities, specifically to characterize and execute programs; in any case, the activity of that competence will not result in Member States being kept from practicing theirs. In the areas of advancement cooperation and humanitarian aid, the Union will have ability to complete activities and conduct common policy; notwithstanding, the activity of that competence will not result in Member States being kept from practicing theirs.

Additionally, Article 6 of the TFEU expresses that the union shall have actions to coordinate, support and supplement the actions of the member states in the areas of protection and improvement of human health; industry; culture; tourism; education, vocational training, youth and sport; civil protection and administrative cooperation. [6]

The fourth and final competence of the EU is defined in Article 5 of the TFEU. [7]In which it expresses that, Member States will facilitate their monetary policies inside the Union. To this end, the Council will acquire measures, specifically broad rules for these policies. Distinct provisions will apply to those Member States whose utilizes euro currencies. The Union will take measures to guarantee coordination of the employment policies of the Member States, specifically by characterizing rules for these policies. The Union may apprehend measures to guarantee coordination of Member States’ social arrangements.[8]

It is safe to express that the EU, over the years has made some developments to ensure its legitimacy and accountability in its principal areas of competence. One of many ways the EU ensures its legitimacy and accountability is through its Union Law, that is, the treaties and secondary law made according to the different legislative procedures, is directly applied and enforced by EU institutions only exceptionally. One of the principal exceptions relates to the commissions power to impose EU competition law. Additionally, the commission also practices other treaty-based or delegated powers. Most union law is imposed and administered in a decentralized manner by national authorities. As a rule, the administrative agencies and the courts of the member states impose and administer ‘directly applicable’ EU law and nationally enacted non-directly applicable union law. The ECJ has created Union law ever so pragmatic by expressing not only regulations, but also treaty provisions as well as provisions in directives under situations directly effective in the member state’s legal system. [9]This is one of the ways the EU ensures both its legitimacy and accountability.

 Furthermore, another way the EU ensures its legitimacy and accountability is through its competition law. EU competition law rest on the triad of a cartel ban contained in the ARTICLE 101 TFEU, a prohibition on market abuse in Article 102 TFEU and Merger control legislation. The EU follows a blueprint of regulating competition based on the supposition that effective competition would allot resources in the most proficient manner, decreases cost for consumers, assure market access and openness to new partaker and shield consumers and small scale establishments against monopolies. Thus, competition policy is regarded as a powerful mechanism for the making and preservation of a single market. Additionally, it complements the EU internal market rules, which focus at the elimination of state imposed tariffs, quatas and measures having equal effect, by disallowing the division of the internal market by private parties.[10] The commission also distinctly examines and fines infringements of the EU competition law on an extraterritorial basis. [11]As a matter of principle, each nation, or different organization utilizing state like legislative functions like the EU in the area of competition law, has the capacity to regulate persons and things placed within its territory. This purported jurisdiction to prescribe may occasionally also stretch beyond a state’s territory when safeguarding core state interest, for instance, against espionage or counterfeiting of its currency, beneath the ‘protective principle’.[12] Another amplification of the territorial principle of jurisdiction to impose is the purported effects doctrine , utilized predominantly in International criminal law.

Moving further, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is not only ushered by instruments of international human rights such as ECHR, but also by the precise interpretation provided to its articles by the ECtHR. Oftentimes, the interpretation ECHR’s rights adopted by the ECJ may be different form the ECtHR in Strasbourg. This is one of the ways the EU ensures its Effective compliance. This can be further proved by adding to the fact that, In the legal order of the EU, the ECHR is seen as a ‘ground’ rather than a roof, which goes on to explain that the ECJ has the prerogative to venture beyond the rights protected under the ECHR. This notion is embodied in Article 52(3) CFR which highlights that whenever the charter carries rights which correspond to rights assured by the ECHR, ‘the scope and definition of those rights shall be the same as the said convention’.[13]

The Eu also guarantees accountability through its selected policies. The early European Economic Community was primarily about the making of a common market, encompassing a customs union and delivering for the unhampered free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. Over the time line, competences have been stretched into other areas, called policies in EU jargon. EU policies which have became largely important, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), environmental and social policy, with specific regard to issues of non discrimination. All these were partly hidden in the original TEC and brought to light only as a consequence of EU Jurisdiction, Treaty amendments and judge made law.[14]

There are few examples of EU legislation in the environmental field which further proves its accountability. Since the 70’s, the EU has acquired a skillfully broad range of environmental legislation, most of it in the form of fighting against pollution and environmental damage, through clean water objectives, clean air legislation, noise reduction, risk control for chemicals and biotechnology, as well as on nature and resources conservation, through the banning the usage of pesticides, acquiring the wild birds directive and various waste management directives since 1975, and by becoming signatory to international environmental agreements such as 1989 Basle convention concerning cross boarder movements of dangerous waste. In 1985, directive 85/337 introduced an ‘environmental impact assessment’ procedure requiring a preventive policy approach for public and private projects.[15]

Moving further, so as to guarantee transparency and accountability on how European reserves were spent, toward the culmination of every year, the department of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations[16] (ECHO) produces a yearly report. The report is made available for public viewing which presents how the monetary allowance was used and which activities were carried out. The department European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations under the European Commission is regularly subject to a yearly point by point audit of procedures and approval of its expenditure. Audits are completed by the European Court of Auditors, just as the Internal Audit Service of the Commission. ECHO additionally does accomplices’ audits to evaluate whether stipends have been used as per set down guidelines, and to give suggestions to improve the monetary administration by accomplices. The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations is focused on building up each year a vital strategy so as to co-ordinate and to program its exercises proficiently and in a proper way receiving an unbiased methodology dependent on necessities. To guarantee greatest transparency, the department’s yearly strategies are accessible to the public.[17]

Another way the EU ensures its accountability is through its petition system. Any European Union’s citizen or a member state’s resident, can individually or in union with other individuals, submit a petition to the European Parliament on any issue which falls in the range of European Union’s fields of activity and which directly affects them. Any establishment, institution or confederation with its HQ in the European Union may also exercise this right of petition, which is assured by the treaty. A petition could be an objection or a request and may connect to subjects of public or private interest. The petition may present an individual request, a complaint or observation concerning the application of EU law or an appeal to the European Parliament to adopt a position on a specific matter. Such petitions give the Parliament the chance of pointing out any violation of a European resident’s rights by a Member State, authorities of the local or other establishment.[18]


      Online Sources



  • August Reinisch, ‘Essentials of EU Law’ (2nd Edition)

[1] Available at accessed 1st April

[2] Available at accessed 1st April

[3] Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Article 3

[4] Available at accessed 1st April

[5] Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Article 4

[6] Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Article 6

[7] Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Article 5

[8] Available at  accessed 1st April

[9] August Reinisch, ‘Essentials of EU Law’ (2nd Edition) Page 58

[10] Ibed Page 171

[11] Ibed Page 181

[12] Ibed Page 182

[13] August Reinisch, ‘Essentials of EU Law’ (2nd Edition) Page 104

[14] Ibed Page 209

[15] Ibed Page 215

[16] European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations


[18] Available at ‘THE ROLE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU)’ accessed 12 April

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