EXPLAINERS

The world is complex, but to understand it we don't necessarily need simplicity. We need context and information.
Our explainers provide exactly that.

Who is who in the EU?

Explainer from May 2021

I’m sure you heard about Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. You might remember the #sofagate and Charles Michel, President of the European Council. If you are from Portugal, you probably know that the country is currently presiding over the Council of the European Union.

And you might be lost by now because unless you’re part of the “EU bubble” it is quite hard to figure out who is who in the EU. (yes, it is the name of the official directory: https://op.europa.eu/en/web/who-is-who)

Let’s break it down:

The institutional framework of the European Union comprises 7 institutions:

4 main institutions

- European Commission

- European Parliament

- European Council

- Council of the European Union

and the

- Court of Justice of the European Union

- European Central Bank

There are a number of other institutions, bodies and 40 Agencies (decentralised bodies established to accomplish specific tasks such as the European Food Safety Authority or Europol).

European Commission

It is the EU's politically independent executive arm. It is alone responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, and it implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

Members: A team of Commissioners, 1 from each EU country

President: Ursula von der Leyen

Location: Brussels (Belgium)

European Parliament

Directly elected by EU voters. Body with legislative, supervisory, and budgetary responsibilities

Members: 705 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament)

President: David-Maria Sassoli

Location: Strasbourg (France), Brussels (Belgium), Luxembourg

European Council

Defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union, but does not pass laws.

Members: Heads of state or government of EU countries, European Council President, European Commission President

President: Charles Michel

Location: Brussels (Belgium)

Council of the European Union

Government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings.

Together with the European Parliament, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU.

Members: Government ministers from each EU country, according to the policy area to be discussed

President: Each EU country holds the presidency on a 6-month rotating basis - currently Portugal until June 2021, next is Slovenia.


Court of Justice of the European Union

Interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and settles legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions. It can also, in certain circumstances, be used by individuals, companies or organisations to take action against an EU institution, if they feel it has somehow infringed their rights.

Members:
Court of Justice: 1 judge from each EU country, plus 11 advocates general
General Court: 2 judges from each EU country

Location: Luxembourg


European Central Bank

To manage the Euro, keep prices stable and conduct EU economic and monetary policy

Members: President and Vice-President and governors of national central banks from all EU countries

President: Christine Lagarde

Location: Frankfurt (Germany)

What is happening in Ethiopia?

Explainer from April 2021

The Tigray war started in November 2020 with an attack from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) on a military facility of the ENDF - Ethiopian National Defense Forces in Dansha, West part of Tigray.

It has since then escalated to a full-fledged war between TPLF and local militias and the ENDF and Eritrea. Violence has increased and it is reported that both sides have committed war crimes.

But what is Tigray?

The Tigray region is the Northernmost region of Ethiopia, home to the Tigrayan people. 

Ethiopia is an ethnic federation of 10 regions and 2 cities i.e. the regions were defined based on ethnicity. This system has been in place since 1995.

What sparked the conflict? 

The TPLF, suspected to have terrorist links, was part of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRFD) for 31 years.  EPRDF was a coalition that was dissolved in 2019 by Abiy Ahmed, current Ethiopian Prime Minister.

Ahmed then formed the new Prosperity Party without TPLF. This has caused tensions further prompted by the central government's decision to consider the Tigray September 2020 elections illegal as these (and the general ones) were postponed due to the pandemic.

Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Prize in 2019 for the peace efforts to solve the conflict with Eritrea, is Prime-Minister since 2018 appointed by EPRDF, not by popular vote.

What is the role of Eritrea?

Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993 but the two countries were at war from 1998 to 2000. A peace agreement was signed in 2018 to formally end the border conflict.

Eritrea has been supporting the ENDF and sent troops to fight in Tigray which has triggered concerns due to the previous war. The conflict has caused at least 52 000 civilian deaths. More than 60 000 Tigrayans fled to Sudan. Atrocities have been committed by both sides. The African Union has been mediating the conflict. The USA has been pressing Abiy Ahmed to declare a ceasefire which has not happened yet.

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