These three C's in many ways mirror the three branches of government within the United States: the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Therefore, one may describe the balance of power with the following phrase: "The commission proposes, the Council decides, the Court interprets."
However, some differences remain, and perhaps the internal structure of the European Community may best be understood as a combination of "different conceptions of democracy" (Craig, 1997, 105). The EU is not a state, but a combination of states and therefore it derives its authority from its members. "Under the present organization of the EU, its balance of powers does not correspond to the classic principle of the separation of powers. The interplay of checks and balances does not give a necessarily weaker result, but it is different" (Pris, 2000, 4). Because of this distinct separation of powers that isn't "really" a separation of powers; it is difficult to determine who the head of the EU is or how, if the bodies were to disagree, such a disagreement would be handled if not by the Court.
The Council or the Commission could emerge at the dominant body depending upon political circumstances. Each entity has its own strengths and weakness. "Secondly, EC law is not stable. It is dynamic. The boundaries of the EC's powers move with the adoption of decisions, regulations, directives and the conclusion of international agreements" (Pris, 2000, 4).
The Commission members are appointed by their respective governments. Seats are not elected. Therefore, the risk is that the Commission might become too powerful and lack sufficient checks upon who may rise to enjoy such authority. The primary power of the Commission is its soft power; it has a tremendous ability to advise and lead interest groups in a manner that is consistent with the strategies and goals outlined by the European Union. Rather than create a top-down regulatory strategy, it employs consensus building and negotiations as tools of intervention in competition issues. When needed, the Commission may choose to issue a public outcry against a faulty competitive practice.
However, such an instance is rare and can be explained by the strongest competitive disadvantages, such as that imposed by a monopoly or too much state intervention into economic affairs. These issues concern the Commission because its main goal is to ensure a fair trade and competitive platform for transnational industries. The main purpose of the Union is to enable economic development and such actions are contrary to free market liberalization principles. While not the 'neoliberalism' that has at times been advocated by countries like the United States and criticized by others who saw the destruction created by strict adherence to the "Washington Consensus" advocated by aid lender institutions like the IMF, the European Union's Commission does take the opportunity to stop monopolistic and anti-competitive practices.
In this way, the European Union may offer a middle strategy that is neither Washington based neoliberalism or strong, state driven economic practices followed by Communist China or other Asian nations. Europe's socialist democratic mix has worked thus far to tailor the economic environment to fit economic necessity. This can be seen in the dramatic economic success stories of nations like Portugal, who has been cited as an example of EU economic success.
The Commission's role in EU