The European Commission
Article 17 Treaty on European Union
Article 18 Treaty on European Union
Article 244 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
Article 245 TFEU — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
Article 246 TFEU — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
Article 247 TFEU — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
Article 248 TFEU — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
Article 249 TFEU — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
Article 250 TFEU — role, composition, powers and functioning of the European Commission
They set out the role, composition, powers, appointment procedures and functioning of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch.
1. Proposes new laws — the Commission is the sole EU institution that formally presents laws for adoption by the European Parliament and the Council.
2. Manages EU policies and allocate EU funding — the Commission sets spending priorities along with the Council and the Parliament, and draws up and executes the annual budget.
3. Enforces EU law — together with the Court of Justice of the EU, the Commission ensures that EU law is applied properly in all EU countries.
4. Represents the EU internationally — speaks on behalf of all EU countries in international bodies (such as the World Trade Organisation — WTO).
The Commission is led politically by a team of 28 Commissioners. The College of Commissioners includes one Commissioner from each EU country and includes:
6 vice-presidents including a first vice-president and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP),
21 Commissioners in charge of portfolios.
The Commission’s work is organised into departments known as directorates-general (DGs), each responsible for a specific policy area.
The European Council puts forward a candidate for president, taking into account the results of the European Parliament elections. The candidate must have the support of the majority of European Parliament members to be elected. He/she is responsible for:
establishing the political guidelines for the College of Commissioners;
deciding upon the Commission’s internal organisation and delegating responsibility for particular policy areas to the individual Commissioners — these tasks may be reallocated throughout his/her time in office;
appointing vice-presidents from amongst Members of the Commission, with the exception of the HR/VP.
He/she may also ask a Commissioner to leave his/her post without the College’s approval.
By common agreement with the elected president, the Council adopts the list of persons which it proposes to appoint as Members of the Commission, with the exception of the HR/VP.
The HR/VP is appointed by the European Council, in agreement with the President of the Commission.
The Members of the Commission are chosen for their general competence and their independence.
The entire College is approved by a European parliamentary vote.
Treaty on European Union
Role and composition of the Commission; appointment and powers of the President of the Commission
Treaty on European Union
Appointment and powers of the HR/VP
Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250
Functioning of the Commission
Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union — Title III — Provisions on the institutions — Articles 17 and 18 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 26-27)
Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Six — Institutional and financial provisions — Title I — Institutional provisions — Chapter 1 — The institutions — Section 4 — The Commission — Articles 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249 and 250 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 155-157)
European Council Decision 2013/272/EU of 22 May 2013 concerning the number of members of the European Commission (OJ L 165, 18.6.2013, p. 98)
Rules of procedure of the European Commission
European Commission — rules of procedure
They set out the rules on the operation and organisation of the European Commission.
Article 249 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for the establishment of the Commission’s rules of procedure and their publication.
It should be noted that the term ‘Commission’ can refer to the institution itself, the College of Commissioners or the administrative staff of the institution.
The internal rules of procedure cover aspects of the work of the Commission including the following.
Organisation of the Commission
The Commission is a collegiate body. It acts collectively. The principle of collective responsibility implies that the Members of the Commission have an equal say in decision-taking, that their decisions are taken jointly and that they have collective responsibility for all decisions taken by the Commission.
President of the Commission
The President of the Commission sets out the policy guidelines for the Commission. He or she represents it, decides on its internal organisation and assigns special responsibilities (portfolios) to the various Members of the Commission who are commonly called Commissioners. Responsibilities may change in the course of the 5-year mandate of the Commission. The president is assisted by the Commission’s secretary-general.
The president appoints vice-presidents, other than the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and may also set up groups of Commissioners with special mandates.
The Commission’s departments
The Commission’s directorates-general (known as DGs) and departments prepare and implement the Commission’s tasks. They put the policy priorities and guidelines set out by the president into action. In principle, the DGs and departments are subdivided into directorates that are themselves subdivided into units.
Each Commissioner has a cabinet to assist him or her in their work and in preparing Commission decisions. The cabinets cooperate with the relevant departments or DGs.
The Commission uses 4 types of decision-making procedures.
Oral: these decisions — mostly of major political or economic importance — are taken during meetings of the College of Commissioners.
Written: the legal service and consulted departments agree on the proposed acts and compulsory accompanying documents. These are then made available to all Commissioners for consideration during an agreed time period. If there are no requests for changes expressed on this date, the acts are adopted. In the case of a written procedure concerning the coordination and surveillance of EU countries’ economic and budgetary policies, a Commissioner may, based on an impartial and objective assessment, request its suspension. The president then takes a decision whether or not to suspend it.
Empowerment: the Commission empowers one or more Commissioners to take management or administrative measures on its behalf, subject to certain restrictions and conditions.
Delegation: the Commission delegates to directors-general or heads of department the adoption of certain management or administrative measures on its behalf, subject to certain restrictions and conditions.
Meetings of the Commission (oral procedure)
The Commission meets normally once a week. The meeting is generally held each Wednesday in Brussels, except when the European Parliament is sitting in Strasbourg, in which case, themeeting is held on a Tuesday. The president can also call extraordinary meetings of the Commission.
When a Member of the Commission is unable to attend a meeting of the Commission, the head of the Commissioner’s cabinet may sit in and, at the invitation of the president, state the views of the Member being represented, but he or she is not permitted to vote.
The president adopts the agenda of each Commission meeting. A Commissioner may request the president to include an item on the agenda under certain conditions.
Where an item on the agenda has a potential impact on the EU’s growth, competitiveness or economic stability, the DG responsible for economic and financial affairs must be consulted.
Commission meetings are not public, but agendas and minutes of meetings are published on the site of the European Commission’s register. Discussions are confidential.
The Commission may only hold valid deliberations and take legally binding decisions if a majority of the required number of Members is present (quorum). In practical terms, the Commission decides by consensus. A vote, potentially secret, nevertheless takes place if the president or a Member so requests. In this case, a majority of the required number of Members must vote in favour of the proposal or decision for it to be adopted.
Preparation of Commission decisions
Close cooperation and efficient coordination between the DGs and the departments involved are essential to ensure quality and consistency of the Commission’s work. The department responsible for preparing an initiative of the Commission consults the other departments concerned by the envisaged initiative.
The Secretariat-General (SG) has an important role in the preparation of Commission decisions and ensures that the decision-making procedures are properly implemented.
The SG also coordinates the notification and publication of Commission decisions in the Official Journal of the European Union as well as their transmission to the other institutions.
Rules of procedure of the Commission (C(2000) 3614) (OJ L 308, 8.12.2000, pp. 26-34)
Successive amendments to the rules of procedure have been incorporated into the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union — Title III: Provisions on the institutions — Article 17 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 25-26)
Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Six — Institutional and financial provisions — Title I — Institutional provisions — Chapter 1 — The institutions — Section 4 — The Commission — Article 248 (ex-Article 217(2) TEC) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 157)
Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Six: Institutional and financial provisions — Title I: Institutional provisions — Chapter 1: The institutions — Section 4: The Commission — Article 249 (ex-Articles 218(2) and 212 TEC) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 157)
Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Six: Institutional and financial provisions — Title I: Institutional provisions — Chapter 1: The institutions — Section 4 — The Commission — Article 250 (ex-Article 219 TEC) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 157)
European Council Decision 2013/272/EU of 22 May 2013 concerning the number of Members of the European Commission (OJ L 165, 18.6.2013, p. 98)
Council Regulation (EU) 2016/300 of 29 February 2016 determining the emoluments of EU high-level public office holders (OJ L 58, 4.3.2016, pp. 1-12)
The College of Commissioners
There are 28 European Commissioners – one from each Member State. They are appointed to their posts for a five-year term by the European Council, following a vote of consent of the European Parliament. They adopt decisions collectively and take an oath of independence when appointed.
European Council Decision 2013/272/EU of 22 May 2013 concerning the number of members of the European Commission.
At the beginning of the process, the European Council proposes to the European Parliament a candidate for Commission President. The President is elected by the European Parliament. In 2014, for the first time, the EU leaders must take account of the results of the European Parliament elections in May when making their choice. In practical terms, this means the candidate must be able to gain the support of a majority in the Parliament when the MEPs vote on the President-designate in July. The President-designate of the Commission will present to Parliament the political guidelines for his/her term of office in order to enable an informed exchange of views before the election vote.
Composition of the College of Commissioners
Once elected, the Commission President will contact government leaders to compose the College of Commissioners. They are chosen for their general competence and European commitment. Following consultations between the President and government leaders, the Council, with the agreement of the President-elect, adopts a list of the persons proposed for appointment as members of the Commission. Their independence must be beyond doubt. The President decides on the internal organisation of the Commission and distributes the different policy portfolios, such as energy, environment and trade, amongst the new team – a process that requires great political skill in reconciling competing demands and expectations.
European Parliament role
Once the identities and responsibilities of the Commissioners are known, each of them goes before a parliamentary committee corresponding to their portfolio for a public hearing. There, they are questioned at length about their suitability for the post and knowledge of their subject. This is no mere formality. In the past, Commissioners-designate have been forced to stand down when they have failed to win a committee’s approval. The Parliament then votes on the new Commission team en bloc, which, once approved, will be appointed by the European Council. The new College is due to take up office on 1 November. The Commission, as a body, is responsible to the European Parliament. The Parliament is the sole EU institution which can dismiss the Commission during its five-year mandate through a motion of censure.
The senior Commission Vice-President is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The incumbent is chosen by EU leaders with the agreement of the Commission President. The holder of the office not only sits in the European Commission, but also chairs meetings of foreign affairs ministers and is responsible for the European External Action Service.
Number of Commissioners
According to the Lisbon Treaty, the number of Commissioners from November 2014 should correspond to two thirds of the number of Member States unless the EU leaders decide to alter this number. In May 2013, the European Council decided that the number would continue to be equal to the number of Member States. The European Council will review this decision after the next appointment of the Commission due on 1 November 2014.
European Council Decision 2013/272/EU
Articles 17 and 18 of the Treaty on European Union