How the European Union works: become easily an EU expert
The European Union (or shorter: EU) has a big impact on the lives of people living both inside and outside the EU. Some professors say that over 70% of the laws of the EU countries are based on decisions of the EU.
However, very few citizens know or have the feeling they know what’s going on in ‘Brussels,’ the heart of the EU. Who is important and who’s not? How big is the budget? Why are there lobbyists? Is it democratic? Can I make a difference?
These are questions that are so basic that it’s difficult to imagine there is no clear answer.
A course for beginners
And that's what you'll learn in this course: to explain what’s really going on. It’s meant for persons who are interested in being able to follow and explain EU news. By explaining the EU step by step, with basic terms, you’ll learn who decides what and when.
Students studying international politics may also be interested. The course gives a thorough introduction of how the EU makes decisions. At the end of each of the ten sections, there are relevant links to learn more.
All the EU actors
You’ll start by learning the EU language and the main political actors in the first 5 sections, how laws are voted in section 6 followed by a section on the budget. You’ll also learn why people dislike the EU, and the remaining actors are covered in the last 2 sections.
You’ll also see a number of misconceptions and learn whether they are true or not. For example, how big the EU's budget really is. Or why EU countries aren't the only form of European Union.
By the end of the course, you'll be able to explain how the European Union makes its decisions, what impact Europe has on you in your everyday life, what impact you can have on the European Union, and how you can get most out of the EU. So let's get on the road to become an EU expert!
You'll also get a free ebook to guide you in the course.
Welcome to the course on the European Union! Let's see what you can expect to learn, how it's structured, for whom it's meant and who's the teacher.
What is the European Union? A simple question, but difficult to answer. So let's see some of the answers given to that question and how we can define what the European Union is in general terms.
When persons active in the European Union talk about their jobs, it's hard to follow the conversation. It seems like they're speaking another language. Let's see why that is so.
Here we'll see some interesting links related to the EU's languages and the European Union's definition.
Let's see what we're about to learn in this section, as well as what institutions are...
Let's go and see the European Council at work! In this lecture, we'll take a close look at the meetings the European Council holds.
The European Council is more than just the meetings. We'll learn about how these meetings are prepared, what the rules of the meetings are, and what impact the meetings have on the European Union.
Some interesting links about the European Council, and some other background figures.
Let's see if you understood everything about the European Council - get ready for an exercises and a few questions.
An overview of what we're all going to see in this section about the European Commission.
What does the European Commission do? We'll learn it in this lecture.
What we are going to see about the Council of the European Union in this section.
Who sits in the Council? How does it vote? Does it have an own administration? Let's take a closer look.
What does the Council do? We'll look for an answer here.
Links for those that don't have enough of the Council.
In this quiz, we'll do exercises to check whether you've understood the Council of the European Union well.
Let's introduce the European Parliament: it represents the EU's citizens.
What does the elections change to the Parliament? Well, it changes the composition of the Parliament. If all EU citizens voted for right-wing Parliamentarians, the EU would have more right-wing decisions.
What does the Parliament do? And how does it organise itself, so that it does not descend into chaos?
Who's the strongest: the Commission, the Parliament or the Councils?
Some interesting links for finding more information about the European Parliament.
Let's see what we're going to learn in this section: treaties and the other laws.
Treaties are the 'foundations' of the European Union. Let's see why and how they can be changed.
For smaller decisions, treaties are not used. Instead, directives, regulations and decisions are made.
Let's follow one concrete example of a law that has been made.
Let's conclude the lectures on EU laws with the most important points.
Links about the lawmaking process.
Did you pay a lot of attention? Good, let's do some exercises and have some questions...
This lecture introduces us to the section, and we'll try to compare the EU's budget to other things which are worth the same.
Where does all the money of the EU's budget go? We'll find out in this lecture.
So who's exactly paying for the EU budget? We'll also see which member states contribute to the budget, and which ones receive.
We'll conclude the EU's budget with some important remarks.
Interested in more? Find out with these links.
What is Euroscepticism, and what kind of politicians are Euroscepticists? Let's find out, and see an example.
The reasons why Euroscepticists are against (a part of) what the European Union does.
How can we see Euroscepticism is rising? There are many ways to check how widespread the EU's criticism is.
Conclusion of this section about Euroscepticism.
Interesting links for those that wish to learn more about Euroscepticism.
Introducing this rather short section of the remaining EU institutions and organisations, let's start with the European Central Bank or ECB, located in Frankfurt.
The Court of Justice of the European Union is there to clarify the legal problems of the European Union, and give solutions to these problems. It is located in Luxembourg.
The Court of Auditors is - not so surprising - the institution that does the audits. We'll also see the other 'bodies' of the European Union.
Some links if you don't have enough of the EU organisations...
So which organisations are also involved in the EU, but are not official EU organisations?
Do the parliaments of member states have an influence on the European Union? Let's find out.
Citizens can have an impact on EU policy - let's see how.
Ngo's, just like think tanks and lobbies, have an interesting product for EU institutions: information.
How persons can inform themselves about the European Union without participating, is via the media. Let's find out more about their role.
What role do non-EU countries have? Let's take a look.
More links for all the topics discussed in this section.
Hi! I'm Alain.
Curiously, when I was young, many language teachers told me I'm not so good at languages. My Dutch was poor. My English teacher even advised me to follow extra courses.
I discovered I loved languages when I went to Germany in 2010. I had some basic German skills but started to speak in German from day one. What I got in return was amazing: friendship, love, respect and a good level of German. Since then, I'm passionate about languages.
Now I'm proud to be able to express myself in French, Dutch, English, German, Maltese and Spanish. I also have some Portuguese notions. And I'm always busy learning new languages and taught some of my languages via tutoring.
I also have a life besides languages. I love economics, politics and all the processes that shape our society. I worked in communications a few years and hold 3 degrees: in Journalism, EU Studies and Management.