Politics of the European Union
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The union has evolved over time from a primarily economic union to an increasingly political one. This trend is highlighted by the increasing number of policy areas that fall within EU competence - over time political power has tended to shift upwards from the member states to the EU. This trend is controversial.
See the article European Union for more detail on the policies and activities of the EU.
The three main institutions of the European Union are the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the European Commission. Of these only the European Parliament is directly elected. This has happened since 1979, with elections taking place every five years. The last one was in 2004 and the next due in 2009.
The European Parliament is sometimes criticised as little more than an advisory and rubber-stamping body, but its power to reject or amend legislation has been greatly increased in recent years.
The Council of the European Union consists of representatives of member state governments, who are in most cases elected within individual member states. The European Commission is led by appointees, who are proposed by member state governments, and the Commission as a whole must then be accepted by the European Parliament.
 Political parties
Transnational political groupings exist, and include the majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). However, at present these are essentially confederations of national political parties, rather than parties in their own right. MEPs in most countries stand for election on the banner of a national political party, not the transnational grouping to which it belongs.
- Council of the European Union
- European Parliament
- European Commission
- European Court of Justice
- European Court of Auditors
- European Council