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Because modern diplomatic relations pass through a maze of various institutions, both national and international, sometimes having similar sounding names, although fulfilling totally disparate functions, a list with a brief description of each institution is an indispensable aid to understanding the processes through which international relations manoeuvre.

[The following list is under construction and far from being complete]

EU Institutions

Council of the European Union (Συμβούλιο της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, Совет на Европската Унија): The Council of the European Union (sometimes just called the Council and sometimes still referred to as the Council of Ministers. Official Website) is the institution in the essentially bicameral legislature of the European Union (EU) representing the executives of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of several configurations of twenty-seven national ministers (one per state). The exact membership of the configuration depends upon the topic; for example, when discussing agricultural policy the Council is formed by the twenty-seven national ministers whose portfolio includes this policy area (with the related European Commissioner contributing but not voting).

European Council (Ευρωπαϊκό Συμβούλιο, Европски Совет): The European Council (Official Website) is an institution of the European Union. It comprises the heads of state or government of the EU member states, along with the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, currently Herman Van Rompuy. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs, currently Catherine Ashton, takes part in its meetings.

European Commission (Ευρωπαϊκή ΕπιτροπήЕвропска Комисија) : The European Commission (official website) is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union’s treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union.

The Commission operates as a cabinet government, with 27 members of the Commission (informally known as “commissioners“). There is one member per member state, though members are bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than their home state. One of the 27 is the Commission President (currently José Manuel Durão Barroso) proposed by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament. The Council then appoints the other 26 members of the Commission in agreement with the nominated President, and then the 27 members as a single body are subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The first Barroso Commission took office in late 2004 and its successor, under the same President, took office in 2010.

Council of Europe (Συμβούλιο της Ευρώπης, Совет на Европа): The Council of Europe (French: Conseil de l’Europe. Official Website) is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation. It was founded in 1949, has 47 member states with some 800 million citizens, and is an entirely separate body from the European Union (EU), which has only 27 member states. Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make binding laws. The two do however share certain symbols such as the flag of Europe. The Council of Europe has nothing to do with either the Council of the European Union or the European Council, which are both EU bodies.

The best known bodies of the Council of Europe are the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Pharmacopoeia Commission, which sets the quality standards for pharmaceutical products in Europe.

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