Chapter 4 – Section 2

© ‘Life in the united kingdom: a journey to citizenship’ material is reproduced under Open Parliament Licence.


The UK in Europe and the world

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is an association of countries, most of which were once part of the British Empire, though a few countries that were not in the Empire have also joined it

Commonwealth members

Antigua and Barbuda St Lucia
Australia St Vincent and the Grenadines
The Bahamas Samoa
Bangladesh Seychelles
Barbados Sierra Leone
Belize Singapore
Botswana Solomon Islands
Brunei Darussalam South Africa
Cameroon Sri Lanka
Canada Swaziland
Cyprus Tonga
Dominica Trinidad and Tobago
Fiji Islands Tuvalu
The Gambia Uganda
Ghana United Kingdom
Grenada United Republic of Tanzania
Guyana Vanuatu
India Zambia
Jamaica *Nauru is a Special Member
Kenya
Kiribati
Lesotho
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Malta
Mauritius
Mozambique
Namibia
Nauru*
New Zealand
Nigeria
Pakistan
Papua New Guinea
St Kitts and Nevis

The Queen is the head of the Commonwealth, which currently has 53 member states. Membership is voluntary and the Commonwealth has no power over its members although it can suspend membership. The Commonwealth aims to promote democracy, good government and to eradicate poverty.

The European Union (EU)

The European Union (EU), originally called the European Economic Community (EEC), was set up by six Western European countries who signed the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957. One of the main reasons for doing this was the belief that co-operation between states would reduce the likelihood of another war in Europe. Originally the UK decided not to join this group and only became part of the European Union in 1973. In 2004 ten new member countries joined the EU, with a further two in 2006 making a total of 27 member countries.

One of the main aims of the EU today is for member states to function as a single market. Most of the countries of the EU have a shared currency, the euro, but the UK has decided to retain its own currency unless the British people choose to accept the euro in a referendum. Citizens of an EU member state have the right to travel to and work in any EU country if they have a valid passport or identity card. This right can be restricted on the grounds of public health, public order and public security. The right to work is also sometimes restricted for citizens of countries that have joined the EU recently.

The Council of the European Union (usually called the Council of Ministers) is effectively the governing body of the EU. It is made up of government ministers from each country in the EU and, together with the European Parliament, is the legislative body of the EU. The Council of Ministers passes EU law on the recommendations of the European Commission and the European Parliament and takes the most important decisions about how the EU is run. The European Commission is based in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. It is the civil service of the EU and drafts proposals for new EU policies and laws and administers its funding programmes.

The European Parliament meets in Strasbourg, in north-eastern France, and in Brussels. Each country elects members, called Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), every five years The European Parliament examines decisions made by the European Council and the European Commission, and it has the power to refuse agreement to European laws proposed by the Commission and to check on the spending of EU funds.

European Union law is legally binding in the UK and all the other member states European laws, called directives, regulations or framework decisions, have made a lot of difference to people’s rights in the UK, particularly at work. For example, there are EU directives about the procedures for making workers redundant, and regulations that limit the number of hours people can be made to work.

The Council of Europe

The Council of Europe was created in 1949 and the UK was one of the founder members. Most of the countries of Europe are members. It has no power to make laws but draws up conventions and charters which focus on human rights, democracy, education, the environment, health and culture. The most important of these is the European Convention on Human Rights; all member states are bound by this Convention and a member state which persistently refuses to obey the Convention may be expelled from the Council of Europe.

The United Nations (UN)

The UK is a member of the United Nations (UN), an international organisation to which over 190 countries now belong. The UN was set up after the Second World War and aims to prevent war and promote international peace and security. There are 15 members on the UN Security Council, which recommends action by the UN when there are international crises and threats to peace. The UK is one of the five permanent members.

Three very important agreements produced by the UN are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although none of these has the force of law, they are widely used in political debate and legal cases to reinforce the law and to assess the behaviour of countries.

Continue to Chapter 5 – Section 1

Back to Chapter 4 – Section 1

18 Responses to “Chapter 4 – Section 2”

  1. pee says:

    im confused between the European Parliament, European Commission and The Council of the European Union. Can anyone throw some light on this pls?
    thankyou

  2. ln says:

    me too.
    The way i try to understand is like this equivalent below

    European Union = Britain population
    European Parliament = British Parliament
    Council of European Union = Ruling party (Labour)
    European Commission = House of Commons?

    might not to right but stops my head going round in circle. hope it helps.

  3. Navneet says:

    I am now even more confused

  4. Ramesh J Ramaswamy says:

    European Commission is the group of people who propose or design the law. They are expert in their area equals to member in the House of Lords.

    European Council is the members elected through election held every 5 years like (house of commons in UK), they forms the European Parliament.

    European union formed to avoid any future conflict or wars.

    Council of Europe is another independant body who focus on human rights, democracy, education, the environment, health and culture.

    I hope this clear out your mind.

  5. box says:

    Ok so now what is the difference between the

    Council of europe

    Council of european union

  6. krish says:

    thanks but its is confusing

  7. Irina says:

    May be somebody knows, do I need to learn all the Commonwealth(53 memmer states)? For me it is very difficult to remember.

  8. S.BORSE says:

    The Difference between Council of European Union & Europe:
    The Council of the European Union is effectively the governing body of the EU. made up of government ministers from each country in the EU and, together with the European Parliament, is the legislative body of the EU. The Council of Ministers passes EU law on the recommendations of the European Commission and the European Parliament and takes the most important decisions about how the EU is run.
    Council of Europe:It has no power to make laws but draws up conventions and charters which focus on human rights, democracy, education, the environment, health and culture.

  9. siham says:

    salam,
    this chapter is very long and difficult, it will take time for me to understand it and memorize all the informations.
    wich me luck for the test

  10. Kat says:

    The Council of Ministers = The Council of the European Union
    This council governs the EU and passes EU laws (the UK must obey all EU laws). It has ministers from every EU country. It is the most important EU body.

    The European Parliament also has members from every EU country. It doesn’t write laws, but it can block laws or check funding if it doesn’t like something.

    The Council of Europe is quite separate from the others, with slightly different members (the UK is a founding member). It doesn’t write EU laws but it suggests ‘charters and conventions’ that are recommendations to the Council of Ministers, and are often followed by individual governments.

    Okay, it took me a while to get all of that. I hope it helps somebody else figure this chapter out faster than I did…

  11. yas says:

    I find chapter 4 the most difficult, i hope i remember cos at the moment its so confusing
    the house of lords and the house of commons and what power they have over eachother

  12. bella says:

    so ,so difficult to remember all info. but it is uesfull.

  13. mehwash says:

    who appoints the life peers?queen or pm

  14. Ajames says:

    PM appoints the Life peers.

  15. diyar says:

    Life Peers are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister

  16. M.HANIF says:

    THANKS TO THIS WEBSITE I HAVE PASSED MY TEST ON 21ST MARCH 2012 . A VERY INFORMATIVE/HELPFUL & FANTASTIC USABILITY WBSITE . THANKS & KEEP IT UP GOOD WORK .

  17. kerry ann says:

    I really taught i passed my test cause the questions were basic but they said i maid 9 mistakes in(population,christian churches, the monarch prime minister, who can vote etc. i have book another within a week hope i pass it this time.wish me luck

  18. Guddu thind says:

    Its easy to read in mobile for practice

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