The European Commission

  • The European Commission (EC) is the executive branch of the European Union, responsible for:

    • proposing legislation,
    • implementing decisions,
    • upholding the EU treaties and
    • managing the day-to-day business of the EU.

    Commissioners swear an oath at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg City, pledging to respect the treaties and to be completely independent in carrying out their duties during their mandate. The Commissioners are proposed by the Council of the European Union, on the basis of suggestions made by the national governments, and then appointed by the European Council after the approval of the European Parliament. It is common, although not a formal requirement, that the commissioners have previously held senior political positions, such as being a member of the European Parliament or a government minister.

    This EU institution operates as a cabinet government, with 27 members of the Commission (informally known as "commissioners"). There is one member per member state, but members are bound by their oath of office to represent the general interest of the EU as a whole rather than their home state. One of the 27 is the Commission President (currently - 2020 -  Ursula von der Leyenproposed by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament. The Council of the European Union then nominates the other members of the Commission in agreement with the nominated President, and the 27 members as a single body are then subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.

    The term Commission is variously used,

    • either in the narrow sense of the 27-member College of Commissioners (or College) or
    • to also include the administrative body of about 32,000 European civil servants who are split into departments called directorates-general and services.

    The procedural languages of the Commission are English, French and German. The Members of the Commission and their "cabinets" (immediate teams) are based in the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

    The Commission was set up from the start to act as an independent supranational authority separate from governments. It has been described as "the only body paid to think European". The members are proposed by their member state governments, one from each. However, they are bound to act independently – free from other influences such as those governments which appointed them. This is in contrast to the Council of the European Union, which represents governmentsthe European Parliament, which represents citizensthe Economic and Social Committee, which represents organised civil society, and the Committee of the Regions, which represents local and regional authorities.

    Through Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union the Commission has several responsibilities:

    • to develop medium-term strategies
    • to draft legislation and arbitrate in the legislative process
    • to represent the EU in trade negotiations
    • to make rules and regulations, for example in competition policy
    • to draw up the budget of the European Union and
    • to scrutinize the implementation of the treaties and legislation.

    The rules of procedure of the European Commission set out the Commission's operation and organization

    Executive power
    Before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, the executive power of the EU was held by the Council: it conferred on the Commission such powers for it to exercise. However, the Council was allowed to withdraw these powers, exercise them directly, or impose conditions on their use. This aspect has been changed by the Treaty of Lisbon, after which the Commission exercises its powers just by virtue of the treaties. Powers are more restricted than most national executives, in part due to the Commission's lack of power over areas like foreign policy – that power is held by the European Council, which some analysts have described as another executive.

    Considering that under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council has become a formal institution with the power of appointing the Commission, it could be said that the two bodies hold the executive power of the EU (the European Council also holds individual national executive powers). However, it is the Commission that currently holds executive powers over the European Union. The governmental powers of the Commission have been such that some have suggested changing its name to the "European Government"