The European Commission: What is it for?

29 March 2019
The European Commission: What is it for? -

The European Commission is one the EU political institutions and is part of the institutional triangle for the adoption of decisions within the framework of the European Union.

This institution is meant to promote and guarantee the general interest of the EU, beyond the influence of the home states. It is “the only body paid to think European”. As such, this role is reflected in its composition and functions.

It consists of 28 (soon 27?) members, one per each member state and it includes: the President of the Commission, six Vice-Presidents, including the First Vice-President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and 21 Commissioners, each in charge for a portfolio. The President decides who is responsible for which policy area. However, decisions are made by the body as a whole. All Commissioners are equal and collectively responsible in the decision-making process.

The Commission’s term of office is of five years, ensuring a temporal and thus political linkage with the Parliament. It is not by chance that the EU Parliament is vested with the right to approve and dismiss the Commission. In particular, the President is proposed by the Council of EU, basing on the results of the parliamentary elections, and is elected by the EU Parliament by an absolute majority. Then, the newly appointed President prepares the list of Vice-Presidents and Commissioners, considering each country’s proposal. General competence, European commitment and indubitable independence are prerequisites to be appointed.

Each candidate explains before the European Parliament his/her vision and answer questions. In the past a negative evaluation of the Parliament has prompted the withdrawal of one or more candidates. After this process is brought to an end, the Commission as a whole needs the Parliament’s approval and is finally appointed by the European Council, by a qualified majority. The Commission has a body is responsible to the EU Parliament that may vote a motion of censure. If this is passed, the Commission shall resign.

The Commission represents the EU executive arm and is guardian of the Treaties. It has the right to propose EU laws and to implement them once adopted. Together with the Court of Justice, it ensures Treaties and Union law are properly upheld in EU countries. Further, it proposes the annual budgets for approval by the Parliament and Council, it manages EU policies and allocates EU funding, in accordance to the spending priorities set together with the Parliament and the Council. Except for the common foreign and security policy, and other cases provided for in the Treaties, it is responsible for the Union’s external representation.

As the general interest of the EU is the interest of all EU citizens, If you want to express your views to the EU Commission and have a say in EU policies, you could consider to launch a European citizens’ initiative asking the European Commission to propose a legal act, or to make a formal complaint, if you believe EU law is not being properly applied in your respect, or also to participate in ongoing public consultations.

Alice Valdesalici EUreka! Eurac research blogs Alice Valdesalici is an award-winning senior researcher at the Institute for Comparative Federalism of Eurac Research. She got her PhD in Italian and Constitutional Law from the University of Verona in 2016. Her main research interests are Comparative Federalism, Italian Regionalism & the special autonomy of Trentino-South Tyrol and Institutional Innovation.


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