The European Parliament is the parliamentary organ of the European communities. It is made up of 751 members who are directly elected by the population of the 28 member states for five years. Each member state is allocated a certain number of seats depending on the size of its population. Germany, the largest member state of the EU, has 99 MEPs. The Parliament has legislative, budgetary and monitoring powers, though no right of initiative in legislation. The Parliament sits in Strasbourg; plenary sessions and committee meetings also take place in Brussels and Luxembourg.
The Council (of Ministers) is the most important EU legislative committee. Each member country delegates one minister. The Council and the EU Parliament share legislative powers and responsibility for the EU budget. The Presidency of the Council) rotates every six months.
German development policy as a constituent part of a global structural and peace policy endeavors to improve living conditions in partner countries. The Federal Government, in close collaboration with the international community, is committed to fighting poverty, to peace and democracy, to globalisation that is fair, and to preserving the environment and natural resources. The strengthening of good government, self-responsibility, and powers of self-help in the partner countries are basic elements. Furthermore, education, health, rural development, the protection of the climate, environment and resources, as well as economic cooperation are key sectors. The guidelines and concepts underlying German development policy are devised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Germany is one of the world’s major donors of development assistance.
The euro is the currency of the European Monetary Union and after the US dollar the second most important member of the international currency system. Together with the national central banks, the European Central Bank (ECB), headquartered in Frankfurt/Main, is responsible for monetary policy with regard to the euro. The euro is the official currency in 19 of the 28 EU member states. The euro was physically introduced in “Euroland”, including Germany, on January 1, 2002, having served as a currency of deposit since the beginning of 1999.
The European Commission is headquartered in Brussels and is a politically independent supra-national body that represents and safeguards the interests of the entire EU. The EU Commission has the right to table proposals (right of initiative) for all common legal acts; as “guardian of the treaties” it ensures that common law is adhered to and in addition enjoys executive powers, for example with regard to the budget and monopolies laws. Finally it publicly represents the interests of the community. The Commission is headed by the Commission President, since 2014 Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxemburg. Each member state is represented by a Commission member.
The European Council determines the political guidelines of the EU. Chaired by the President it assembles at least twice a year and is made up of the heads of state and government as well as the President of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy.
The Federal Republic is a founder member of the European Union (EU). Germany’s payment to the EU budget (some 20 percent) makes it the largest contributor. Since 1957 Germany has been one of the six founding members of today’s EU. Since 2013, it has consisted of 28 member states and the euro is the official tender in 19 of them. Germany contributes about 20% to the EU budget. Günther Oettinger (CDU), the former Prime Minister of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, is the EU’s Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.
The respect and strengthening of human rights worldwide are a cornerstone of German Federal Government policy. Together with its EU partners it is committed to protecting and continually advancing human rights standards throughout the world. This occurs in close collaboration with the institutions of the United Nations, in particular the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. German human rights policy adheres to a concrete commitment: Protecting people from the violation of their rights and basic freedoms and creating viable conditions for suppression, arbitrariness, and exploitation no longer have a chance. A claim that is derived from the Basic Law: Article 1 names human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.
The key task of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, D.C., is to promote the macroeconomic stability of its 188 member states. Germany’s capital quota is around 6.0 percent, making it one of the key International Monetary Fund members; through a German executive director it also plays a major role in IMF decision-making.
In December 2007 in Lisbon, the EU heads of state and governments signed the EU Reform Treaty which, following ratification in all Member States, came into power in December 2009. The Treaty puts the EU on a new contractual footing and is meant to make it more democratic, transparent and efficient. To this end a full-time President of the European Council is responsible for continuity in the Union’s actions. A High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is responsible for the community’s foreign relations. EU resolutions have been simplified as many instances where an unanimous vote has hitherto been required have been abolished. From 1 November 2014 a new procedure for qualified majority voting applies in the Council. Under this procedure, when the Council votes on a proposal by the Commission or the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a qualified majority is reached if two conditions are met: 55% of member states vote in favour - in practice this means 16 out of 28 and the proposal is supported by member states representing at least 65% of the total EU population. This new procedure is also known as the “double majority” rule. The rotating chair of the Council of Ministers will be retained in the form of an 18-month team presidency made up of three Member States. Today, the number of MEPs in the EU Parliament is limited to 751. Each Member State has at least six and at most 96 MEPs. The Reform Treaty also strengthened democracy and protection by basic rights by expanding the role of the Parliament, the inclusion of the national parliaments in the European legislative process, and by making the Charter of Fundamental Rights mandatory (exemptions have been granted to Great Britain and Poland).
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949. This defense alliance now has 29 member states; Germany joined in 1955. The German Armed Forces are part of NATO’s mission in Kosovo and of the NATO-led Resolute Support operation in Afghanistan. NATO’s HQ is in the Belgian capital Brussels.
With its 57 member states, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) is a comprehensive forum for cooperation at the pan-European level. OSCE missions are active above all in conflict prevention and management. Germany makes a substantial contribution to finance and man-power. The Secretary General of the OSCE is based in the Austrian capital Vienna.
The United Nations (UN) are the foundations and cornerstone of the international system. So as to adapt it to the political realities of the present day, Germany is in favor of a reform of the UN. Since 1996 Germany, which is the third largest contributor to the UN budget, has been one of the UN seats; among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been based in Bonn.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) was founded in 1995 and serves to implement the existing treaties on international trade. It is likewise a forum for negotiation on liberalizing global trade. In the present Doha round Germany has been expressly championing better integration of the developing countries into world trade. The WTO is based in Geneva (Switzerland).