European Commission

From Academic Kids

Template:Politics of the European Union The European Commission (formally the Commission of the European Communities) is the executive of the European Union. Alongside the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, it is one of the three main institutions governing the Union. Its primary roles are to propose and enact legislation, and to act as 'guardian of the treaties' which provide the legal basis for the EU. The role of the European Commission has many parallels with the executive body of a national government, but also differences (see below for details).

The Commission currently consists of 25 Commissioners, one from each member state of the EU, supported by an administrative body of several thousand European civil servants. Each Commissioner takes responsibility for a particular area of policy, and heads a department called a Directorate General. The Commission is headed by a President (from November 2004, Jos Manuel Duro Barroso of Portugal).

The term “the Commission” is generally used to refer both to the administrative body in its entirety, and to the team of Commissioners who lead it.

The purpose-built  in Brussels, housing the European Commission
The purpose-built Berlaymont building in Brussels, housing the European Commission

Unlike the Council of the European Union, the Commission is intended to be a body independent of member states. Commissioners are therefore not permitted to take instructions from the government of the country that appointed them, but are supposed to represent the interests of the citizens of the EU as a whole.


Responsibilities of the Commission

The Commission differs from other institutions in the EU system through its “power of initiative”. This means that only the Commission has the authority to initiate legislation in the areas known as the “first pillar” (a category which includes most areas of policy). However, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are both able to formally request that the Commission legislate on a particular topic. In the areas that fall within the “second pillar” (foreign policy and defence) and “third pillar” (criminal law), the Commission shares the power of initiating legislation with member states.

The Commission also takes the role of “guardian of the treaties”, which includes taking responsibility for initiating infringement proceedings at the European Court of Justice against member states and others who it considers to have breached the EU treaties and other community law.

The Commission negotiates international trade agreements (in the World Trade Organization) and other international agreements on behalf of the EU. It closely co-operates in this with the Council of the European Union.

The Commission is responsible for adopting technical measures to implement legislation adopted by the Council and, in most cases, the Parliament. This legislation is subject to the approval of committees made up of representatives of member states. This process is sometimes known by the jargon term of comitology.

The Commission also regulates competition in the Union, vetting all mergers with Community-wide effects and initiating proceedings against companies which violate EU competition laws.

Appointment and makeup of the Commission

President and Commissioners

The President of the Commission is chosen by the European Council, but the choice must be approved by the European Parliament. The remaining Commissioners are appointed by the member states in agreement with the President, who must decide the role of each Commissioner. Finally, the new Commission as a whole must be approved by the Parliament.

In October 2004, the first proposed list of Commissioners for the Barroso Commission was withdrawn when it became clear that the Parliament would not endorse it. Jos Manuel Duro Barroso then made a number of changes to particular proposed appointments that had been controversial, and a revised list was accepted by the Parliament on 18 November 2004.

In addition to its role in approving a new Commission, the European Parliament has the power at any time to force the entire Commission to resign through a vote of no confidence. (This requires a vote that makes up at least two-thirds of those voting and a majority of the total membership of the Parliament). While it has never used this power, it threatened to use it against the Commission headed by Jacques Santer in 1999, with the result that the whole Commission resigned of its own accord. (See the Santer Commission Resignation for more details).

The present Commission, the Barroso Commission, consists of 25 Commissioners. This Commission will serve from 22 November, 2004 to 31 October, 2009.

Main article: Barroso Commission

The enlargement of the Union on 1 May 2004 increased the number of member states from 15 to 25, and had an effect on the make-up of the Commission. Prior to this date, there were 20 Commissioners. In the months after May 2004 the size of the Commission was temporarily increased to 30 members - consisting of the 20 Commissioners already in post, plus one from each of the 10 acceding member states. The number was reduced to 25, with one Commissioner from each member state, when the Barroso commission took office in November 2004.

If the new Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is adopted, the size of the Commission will be further reduced. Member states will take it in turns to nominate Commissioners, with any given state making a nomination on two out of every three occasions that a new Commission is to be appointed.

Civil servants

The Commission is divided into departments known as Directorates-General. Some Directorates cover an internal area of policy (e.g. the Directorate-General for Education and Culture), while others cover external policy (e.g. the Directorate-General for Enlargement) and still others perform internal services (e.g. the Directorate-General for Personel and Administration).

Each Directorate-General is supervised by a senior civil servant known as the Director-General, who reports directly to the Commissioner or Commissioners responsible for that policy area. (Full list of DGs) (


The Commission originated in the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was established in 1952 under the terms of the Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. In 1958 two further bodies were established under the terms of the Treaties of Rome. These were the Commission of the European Economic Community and the Commission of the European Atomic Energy Community . Finally, in 1967, these three bodies merged to form the Commission of the European Communities, established under the terms of the Merger Treaty. This is the body that continues to exist to this day.

Commission decision-taking

Individual commissioners take responsibility for advancing the work of European Commission in their areas of interest, but any key decisions are generally taken collectively by the Commission as a whole. To make this possible, there are regular meetings of all the Commissioners, which have two types of agenda items [1] (

  • A-item is an item that is not controversial and can be passed without discussion
  • B-item still needs discussion before being accepted

See also

External links

ca:Comissi Europea cy:Comisiwn Ewropeaidd da:Europa-Kommissionen de:Europische Kommission et:Euroopa Komisjon es:Comisin Europea eo:Eŭropa Komisiono fr:Commission europenne is:Framkvmdastjrn Evrpusambandsins lv:Eiropas Komisija lt:Europos komisija lb:Europesch Commissioun nl:Europese Commissie no:Europakommisjonen pl:Komisja Europejska pt:Comisso Europeia ro:Comisia Europeană ru:Европейская Комиссия sr:Европска комисија sl:Evropska komisija


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