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The Legal Base

As we saw earlier, the functioning of the European Union is based on its treaties and this is particularly important when it comes to policy-making. The term ‘legal base’ refers to the part of one of the EU’s treaties (most commonly in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) that gives the EU the legal right to act. If there is no basis in one of the treaties for EU action on an issue then the EU cannot enact legislation on that issue.

All policy proposals from the Commission must have a legal base within one of the EU treaties and the legal base of a Commission proposal is very important, as it decides which method is to be used (ordinary legislative procedure, consultation, or consent) and therefore how much power the various institutions will exercise in the process.

We will now look at an example from an EU Treaty to demonstrate the concept of a legal base.

This excerpt is from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It relates to the free movement of workers, in other words the right of European citizens to move and work anywhere in the EU. This part of the treaty provides the legal base for policy areas relating to the free movement of workers.

  • Read the text via the link below
  • Notice the part of the text that describes workers rights (essentially the potential legal base for matters on this policy area)
  • Try to discover from the text what policy-making procedure (ordinary legislative procedure, consultation, or consent) is used for this policy area.

Example and explanation

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