Monday, 30 January 2012

Institutional Architecture of the European Union III:
The terms supranational and intergovernmental

When we talk about ‘supranational’, we talk about a body that rules ‘over’ (=supra) the national governments. This means that the countries who by convention, for example a treaty, are under supranational authority, must follow decisions taken by that authority.

‘Intergovernmental’, on the other hand, means ‘between governments’. In other words, governments of at least two countries make decisions between them, and other countries’ governments can choose not to fall under that decision.

The difference is thus that if a group of independent nations are members of a supranational community, it is the community that takes certain decisions, according to the rules laid out between the nations in question to form this community, and each nation falls under these decisions — whereas in an intergovernmental community, each member can opt in or opt out on a single-case basis, each thus keeping their full independence.

by Bjørn Clasen

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