As stated in yesterday's posting, our apartment is just up the street from the European Commission and Parliament buildings. Being that close to such important structures meant we just had to visit them. First stop was the "Parlamentarium", Europe's largest parliamentary visitor center. This free museum-like visitor center depicts the history of Europe up through World War II and the subsequent creation of the European Union. Meet the members of the European Parliament by way of video messages; explore each EU member state through an interactive virtual tour; among other attractions. Once done, we went across the street where we experienced a half-hour tour of the European Parliament.
The 28 EU member states, each of them independent and sovereign entities, pooled some of their decision-making authority to shared institutions; the European Commission, European Parliament, and the European Council.
The European Commission is the executive arm, representing the interests of the EU as a whole, proposing new laws and policy agreements.
The European Parliament represents each of the 500 million citizens of the EU. The 751 members from the 28 member states, are directly elected by the citizens for a five year term. While the official seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg France, there are two other meeting places ; Brussels and Luxembourg. Meetings of the whole parliament (Plenary Sessions) are held twelve times per year in Strasbourg.
The European Council is made up of the heads of state (or government) of each EU member state. The Council meets four times per year to define general policies and to direct priorities for the EU. However, this body does not exercise any legislative functions.