The European Commission
Created | Updated Nov 7, 2005
The European Commission is one of three main governing bodies that make up the European Union (EU). The others being the European Council and the European Parliament. The Commission is the non-elected bureaucratic part of the EU. It drafts proposals, acts as guardian for the founding treaties and is responsible for implementing policy. However, it has no real power when it comes to decision-making about legislations.
The Commission is the largest body of the EU. It has 20 Commissioners drawn from the 15 member countries, and employs a permanent staff of 28,000. This staff is divided into a series of directorates with varying functions, including, but not exclusive to, external relations, economics and financial affairs, trade, agriculture, energy, transport, environment, taxation, education and culture. Each directorate is headed by a director-general, the equivalent in rank to the top civil servant in a government ministry. The director-generals report directly to a Commissioner who then brings the findings to the Commission.
When the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are presented with a Commission's proposal, the three institutions work together to produce a suitable result. The Commission decides on the proposal for the new legislation on the basis of what is considered best for the citizens of the union. The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament share the decision on most proposals, but it's up to the commission to decide what that proposal will be.
The founding treaties; Treaty of Paris (1951), Treaties of Rome (1957), the Merger Treaty (Brussels, 1965), The Single European Act (1986), the Maastricht Treaty (also known as the Treaty on European Union, 1992) and the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), would all be pointless without some method of protection and enforcement. That is why the European Commission acts as the guardian of the founding treaties. It ensures that all legislation made by the EU is in agreement with these treaties.
It is also the Commission's responsibility to ensure that legislation is carried out. It has considerable power, in that it manages the Union's annual budget, allocating funds, and re-distributing money between the richer and poorer parts of the EU. Part of handling the budget is to negotiate trade agreements with countries outside the EU.
The problem with the European Commission is that it is appointed, not elected, yet it is expected to represent the interests of the population of the EU. How far can the oath of independence sworn by the commissioners overcome that of national interest? Surely, if a country requires a certain type of democracy to become a member of the EU, the EU should share that same system of representing of the population? Or is it all part of becoming something beyond what we now know to be a political organization?