European Commission

European Commission.svg
TypeEU institution
RoleExecutive cabinet
Established16 January 1958; 60 years ago (1958-01-16)
College
Current collegeJuncker Commission
PresidentJean-Claude Juncker
First Vice
President
Frans Timmermans
Vice PresidentsFederica Mogherini
Jyrki Katainen
Valdis Dombrovskis
Andrus Ansip
Maroš Šefčovič
Total members28
Administration
Working
languages
English
French
German
Staff32,000 [1]
Departments24
LocationBrussels, Belgium
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Website
ec.europa.eu

The European Commission (EC) is an institution of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU.[2] Commissioners swear an oath at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, pledging to respect the treaties and to be completely independent in carrying out their duties during their mandate.[3]

The Commission operates as a cabinet government, with 28 members of the Commission (informally known as "commissioners").[4] 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.[3] One of the 28 is the Commission President (currently Jean-Claude Juncker) proposed by the European Council[5] and elected by the European Parliament.[6] The Council of the European Union then nominates the other 27 members of the Commission in agreement with the nominated President, and the 28 members as a single body are then subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.[7] The current Commission is the Juncker Commission, which took office in late 2014.

The term Commission is used either in the narrow sense of the 28-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.[8][9] The procedural languages of the Commission are English, French and German.[10] The Members of the Commission and their "cabinets" (immediate teams) are based in the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

History

The European Commission derives from one of the five key institutions created in the supranational European Community system, following the proposal of Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, on 9 May 1950. Originating in 1951 as the High Authority in the European Coal and Steel Community, the Commission has undergone numerous changes in power and composition under various presidents, involving three Communities.[11]

Establishment

Signed
In force
Document
1951
1952
Paris Treaty
1957
1958
Rome treaties
1965
1967
Merger Treaty
2007
2009
Lisbon Treaty
       
  Commission of the European Atomic Energy Community Commission of the European Communities European Commission   
High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community
  Commission of the European Economic Community
     
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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
European Union

The first Commission originated in 1951 as the nine-member "High Authority" under President Jean Monnet (see Monnet Authority). The High Authority was the supranational administrative executive of the new European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). It took office first on 10 August 1952 in Luxembourg. In 1958 the Treaties of Rome had established two new communities alongside the ECSC: the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). However their executives were called "Commissions" rather than "High Authorities".[11] The reason for the change in name was the new relationship between the executives and the Council. Some states such as France expressed reservations over the power of the High Authority and wished to limit it giving more power to the Council rather than the new executives.[12]

Louis Armand led the first Commission of Euratom. Walter Hallstein led the first Commission of the EEC, holding the first formal meeting on 16 January 1958 at the Château of Val-Duchesse. It achieved agreement on a contentious cereal price accord as well as making a positive impression upon third countries when it made its international debut at the Kennedy Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations.[13] Hallstein notably began the consolidation of European law and started to have a notable impact on national legislation. Little heed was taken of his administration at first but, with help from the European Court of Justice, his Commission stamped its authority solidly enough to allow future Commissions to be taken more seriously.[14] However, in 1965 accumulating differences between the French government of Charles de Gaulle and the other member states (over British entry, direct elections to Parliament, the Fouchet Plan and the budget) triggered the "empty chair" crisis ostensibly over proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy. Although the institutional crisis was solved the following year, it cost Etienne Hirsch his presidency of Euratom and later Walter Hallstein the EEC presidency despite otherwise being viewed as the most 'dynamic' leader until Jacques Delors.[13]

Early development

The three bodies, collectively named the European Executives, co-existed until 1 July 1967 when, under the Merger Treaty, they were combined into a single administration under President Jean Rey.[11] Due to the merger the Rey Commission saw a temporary increase to 14 members, although subsequent Commissions were reduced back down to nine, following the formula of one member for small states and two for larger states.[15] The Rey Commission completed the Community's customs union in 1968 and campaigned for a more powerful, elected, European Parliament.[16] Despite Rey being the first President of the combined communities, Hallstein is seen as the first President of the modern Commission.[11]

The Malfatti and Mansholt Commissions followed with work on monetary co-operation and the first enlargement to the north in 1973.[17][18] With that enlargement the Commission's membership increased to thirteen under the Ortoli Commission (the United Kingdom as a large member was granted two Commissioners), which dealt with the enlarged community during economic and international instability at that time.[15][19] The external representation of the Community took a step forward when President Roy Jenkins, recruited to the presidency in January 1977 from his role as Home Secretary of the United Kingdom's Labour government,[20] became the first President to attend a G8 summit on behalf of the Community.[21] Following the Jenkins Commission, Gaston Thorn's Commission oversaw the Community's enlargement to the south, in addition to beginning work on the Single European Act.[22]

Jacques Delors

President Delors, one of the most notable presidents in the Commission's history

The Commission headed by Jacques Delors was seen as giving the Community a sense of direction and dynamism.[23] Delors and his team are also considered as the "founding fathers of the euro".[24] The International Herald Tribune noted the work of Delors at the end of his second term in 1992: "Mr. Delors rescued the European Community from the doldrums. He arrived when Europessimism was at its worst. Although he was a little-known former French finance minister, he breathed life and hope into the EC and into the dispirited Brussels Commission. In his first term, from 1985 to 1988, he rallied Europe to the call of the single market, and when appointed to a second term he began urging Europeans toward the far more ambitious goals of economic, monetary and political union".[25]

Jacques Santer

The successor to Delors was Jacques Santer. The entire Santer Commission was forced to resign in 1999 by the Parliament as result of a fraud and corruption scandal, with a central role played by Édith Cresson. These frauds were revealed by an internal auditor, Paul van Buitenen.[26][27]

That was the first time a Commission had been forced to resign en masse and represented a shift of power towards the Parliament.[28] However the Santer Commission did carry out work on the Amsterdam Treaty and the euro.[29] In response to the scandal the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) was created.

Romano Prodi

Following Santer, Romano Prodi took office. The Amsterdam Treaty had increased the Commission's powers and Prodi was dubbed by the press as something akin to a Prime Minister.[30][31] Powers were strengthened again with the Nice Treaty in 2001 giving the Presidents more power over the composition of their Commissions.[11]

José Manuel Barroso

In 2004 José Manuel Barroso became President: the Parliament once again asserted itself in objecting to the proposed membership of the Barroso Commission. Due to the opposition Barroso was forced to reshuffle his team before taking office.[32] The Barroso Commission was also the first full Commission since the enlargement in 2004 to 25 members and hence the number of Commissioners at the end of the Prodi Commission had reached 30. As a result of the increase in the number of states, the Amsterdam Treaty triggered a reduction in the number of Commissioners to one per state, rather than two for the larger states.[15]

Allegations of fraud and corruption were again raised in 2004 by former chief auditor Jules Muis.[33] A Commission officer Guido Strack reported alleged fraud and abuses in his department in years 2002–2004 to OLAF and was fired as result.[34] In 2008 Paul van Buitenen (the former auditor known from Santer Commission scandal) accused the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of a lack of independence and effectiveness.[35]

Barroso's first Commission term expired on 31 October 2009. Under the Treaty of Nice, the first Commission to be appointed after the number of member states reached 27 would have to be reduced to "less than the number of Member States". The exact number of Commissioners was to be decided by a unanimous vote of the European Council and membership would rotate equally between member states. Following the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in January 2007, this clause took effect for the next Commission.[36] The Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force on 1 December 2009, mandated a reduction of the number of commissioners to two-thirds of member-states from 2014 unless the Council decided otherwise. Membership would rotate equally and no member state would have more than one Commissioner. However, the treaty was rejected by voters in Ireland in 2008 with one main concern being the loss of their Commissioner. Hence a guarantee given for a rerun of the vote was that the Council would use its power to amend the number of Commissioners upwards. However, according to the treaties it still has to be fewer than the total number of members, thus it was proposed that the member state that does not get a Commissioner would get the post of High Representative – the so-called 26+1 formula.[37][38] This guarantee (which may find its way into the next treaty amendment, probably in an accession treaty) contributed to the Irish approving the treaty in a second referendum in 2009.

Lisbon also combined the posts of European Commissioner for External Relations with the Council's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This post, also a Vice-President of the Commission, would chair the Council of the European Union's foreign affairs meetings as well as the Commission's external relations duties.[39][40] The treaty further provides that the most recent European elections should be "taken into account" when appointing the Commission, although the President is still proposed by the European Council; the European Parliament "elects" the Commission rather than "approves" it as under the Treaty of Nice.[39]

Jean-Claude Juncker

In 2014, Jean-Claude Juncker became President of the European Commission.

Juncker appointed his previous campaign director and head of the transition team, Martin Selmayr, as his chief of cabinet. During the Juncker presidency Selmayr has been described as "the most powerful EU chief of staff ever."[41]

Other Languages
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norsk nynorsk: Europakommisjonen
português: Comissão Europeia
Simple English: European Commission
slovenčina: Európska komisia
slovenščina: Evropska komisija
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