The aims and ambitions of the European Community are wider and older than those of the Summit. The Community has also faced the issue of sovereignty more directly. In some areas decision making has been transferred from the individual member states to the Community. This has been possible because of the unique institutional structure of the Community and because its aims have been accepted by the full democratic process in its member states. Legally binding decisions can be made by majority voting. The areas in which this is the case have recently been expanded by the Single European Act, the first major revision to the Treaty of Rome, the constitution of the European Communities, in thirty years.
The Community, however, has also found the need to introduce its own summit process, because of the same basic pressures: many issues cut across departmental boundaries; the blurring of the distinction between domestic and foreign policy; the need for participation at the highest level.
The so-called European Councils were started in 1974. The first was held in December 1974 in Paris. They have been held regularly since. Until 1986. they were held three times a year and since then have been held twice a year (with the exception of the Brussels Summit of February 11-12 1988). to correspond with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers which rotates between member States each six months.
Although started in 1974, the process was not institutionalized until the ratification of the Single European Act in 1987. Following that date, decisions made at a European Council have been like those of a national Parliament within its own territory. They are applicable in all the member states. This is true for the recent European Council held in Brussels in February 1988, which decided on a reform package covering: the budgetary resources of the Community, and policies to accompany the creation of the Common Agricultural Policy.
The European Community has participated at all the economic summits except the first two. It is represented by the President of the Commission, currently Jacques Delors, and by the President of the European Council. For those meetings. at which Ministers accompany the Head of State or Government. the Community is also represented by the Commissioners responsible for external relations and economic affairs. It is worth recalling that within the Community's structure. the Commission has a wide range of duties. It is the guardian of the Treaty of Rome. It is the executive arm of the Community. It is the initiator of Community policy. It is the exponent of Community interest and. especially in the Council of Ministers, the principal legislative institution of the Community.
Put in other terms, the Commission is a sort of government (administration) which strongly depends on the legislative powers shared between the equivalent of the Senate (Council of Ministers) and of the House of Representatives (European Parliament) elected by universal suffrage.
The President of the European Council is the Head of State or Government of the member state which holds the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. This rotates on a six month basis according to an alphabetic order. The Presidency for the first half of 1988 is held by the Federal Republic of Germany; in the second half it will be held by Greece. followed in 1989 by Spain: and so on. Hence for the Toronto summit Mr. Kohl will be present both in his capacity as German Chancellor and as President of the European Council. When summits coincide with the Presidency of the Council being held by one of the smaller member states who are not present in their own right at the summit, there is thus an extra participant. Hence Mr. Martins, the Prime Minister of Belgium, participated in the 1987 Venice Summit and Mr. Lubbers from the Netherlands went as President of the Council to the Tokyo Summit in May 1986 with the President of the Commission, Mr. Delors.
||This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.|
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated .