Understanding the institutions responsible for shaping policy at the level of the European Union (EU) presents considerable conceptual challenges. The EU institutions are travelling a political path to a future that has never been clearly defined, and have constantly jockeyed with each other for political advantage. The EU institutions have responsibilities that include the three conventional functions of government: the EU has an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. Research on the EU institutions is variable both in its relative quantity and in the extent to which it has provided strong insights into their work. Portrayals of the Commission have painted an inconsistent picture, with some arguing that it is one of the most powerful bureaucracies in the world, while others argue that it is the tool either of the more powerful member states or of big business, and yet others argue that it is significantly fragmented, and lacks the capacity to act coherently.