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The EU’s third force

Inga Vesper looks at how the European Parliament is exerting its new-found budgetary powers on the funding debate surrounding the Iter fusion project.

Observing policy disputes between the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament is like watching a three-way tug-of-war—with no one quite sure which player has the upper hand.

Until the Lisbon Treaty came into effect in December 2009, the power of the European Union governing bodies was less evenly distributed. The Commission would develop legislation based on member states’ wishes, and the same member states, as represented by the Council of Ministers, would vote these into effect. Parliament had opinions on legislative proposals put to the Council, but national governments had the final say. Some areas of legislation—including most budget matters—were completely outside its remit.

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