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Organisations in the European Union

European Commission (EC), European Parliament (EP), Council of the European Union, European Council

European Commission (EC)

The EC shares the legislative powers with the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the European Union (Council). However, it cannot decide upon a new project; it can only submit it to the two legislative bodies (Council and EP) for approval (= sole right of initiative). The 28 Commissioners decide within the framework of the so-called College of Commissioners; their seat is in Brussels (some departments also have offices in Luxembourg). Since 2012, in addition to other EU institutions, states, etc., EU citizens can also ask the EC to become active; the instrument of the European Citizens’ Initiative was created for this purpose. The 28 members of the EC are nominated by the EC and confirmed by the EP.

In a similar way to the assignment of portfolios at national level, the EC is divided into so-called Directorate Generals, whereby the competences of a Commissioner can cover more than one of the 30-plus Directorate Generals (DG). The topic of eGovernment is primarily – but not exclusively dealt with by the EC in the DG CNET (DG for communication networks, content and technologies), in the DG DIGIT (DG for data processing) and the DG MARKET (DG für Internal Market and Services). All projects of the EC undergo a lengthy process which also envisages the involvement of experts and high-calibre representatives from the Member States. Over the course of time, a vast number of groupings have established themselves. In particular, the following groups are worth mentioning in this context:

  • High-Level Group Digital Agenda: advisory committee consisting of high-calibre representatives of the Member States for the implementation of the Digital Agenda
  • eGovernment Group: advisory body of national experts on the implementation of the eGovernment action plan 2011 until 2015

European Parliament (EP)

The EP is active together with the Council (see under 7.1.2.3) as the legislator and is also referred to as the “Citizens‘ Chamber”. The European Parliament takes its decisions during plenary sessions: its seat is in Strasbourg (other meeting places: Brussels and Luxembourg). With the 2014 European Elections (were held across Europe between 22 and 25.5.2014), the EP comprise 751 MEPs. As with the EU Council of Ministers, dossiers do not land directly in the plenary sessions, but instead are prepared in the various EP committees. In connection with eGovernment, in particular the ITRE Committee (Committee on Industry, Research and Energy) as well as the LIBE Committee (Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) and the IMCO Committee (Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection) are relevant here.

Council of the European Union

The Council is active as the legislative body together with the EP. It is also called the “EU Council of Ministers”. Its seat is in Brussels. The Council holds sessions where the 28 ministers of all Member States (or their deputies) and the EC attend. The so-called “TTE Council” is the Council formation in which the ministers responsible for transport, telecommunications and energy participate. Topics relating to eGovernment are mostly dealt with in this Council formation. Other topics such as cyber security, however, are normally dealt with in the so-called „JI Council“, where the Ministers of Justice and the Interior participate. Other Council formations are the Council for General Affairs, the Council for External Relations, the Council for Economic and Financial Affairs, the Council for Competitiveness, the Council for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, etc.

Before EC proposals are discussed in the Council formations mentioned, they undergo a negotiation phase at the level of the Council working groups. Corresponding to the thematically coordinated Council formations, Council working groups have also been set up accordingly. Accordingly, topics relating to eGovernment are usually dealt with in the Council working group “Telecommunication and Information Society” and the Council working group “Legal IT”. The Council working groups are supported by the department employees of the respectively responsible specialist ministries and/or by employees of the Permanent Representation of Austria in the EU. The topic of e-government is dealt with by the Federal Chancellery.

European Council

This body is to be strictly distinguished from the Council of the European Union. The European Council is not a legislative body. It is comprised by the heads of state and government and the EC President (acting in an advisory capacity). Its task is to define goals and strategies. In this context, the European Council also deals with topics such as the Digital Agenda for Europe or the European Strategy for Cyber Security.