A Commission is normally a group of people that investigates certain matters, carries out certain administrative activities or, for example, prepares a new law. The EU uses the word for its main law-making, administrative and executive body, which exercises legislative, executive and certain judicial powers.
The European Commission is the motor of European integration and is the only body in the democratic world where people who are not directly elected have a monopoly of initiating laws.
The Commission decides most EU rules on its own and initiates the most important laws to be adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure in co-decision between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.
According to euobserver.com in 2013 there were up to 1000 so-called “trialogue-meetings” between representatives of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament with the purpose of working out compromises on new European laws. In these meetings the Commission representative has the fullest knowledge of the issue in question and thus tends to be in the strongest negotiating position.
The member states can only amend a Commission proposal if they all agree. A civil servant from the Commission services can thus overrule the wishes of all 28 member states minus one. On the other hand, the Commission must ensure that there is a qualified majority of member states for the adoption of any EU law.
The Commission also implements the laws and rules once they are decided on. Here the Commission can decide on its own unless a qualified majority in the Council or an absolute majority in the European Parliament requests that the issue be put on the agenda again.
The Commission is composed of one member from each member state “suggested” by the national government, but elected by a super-qualified majority of the Prime Ministers or Heads of State in the European Council and an absolute majority of MEPs.
In 2014 the European Parliament launched a democratic “coup” against the treaty rules and proposed Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the Commission. The prime ministers and presidents in the European Council were taken by surprise. To avoid a constitutional battle and crisis the European Council also agreed to propose Juncker by 26 votes in face of the opposition of Britain and Hungary.
Juncker was then elected President on 15 July 2014 by 422 votes to 250, with 47 abstentions and 10 invalid votes. There are 751 members of the European Parliament. On 22 October 2014 the whole college of Commssioners was approved by 423 MEPs in Strasbourg - 47 more than the absolute majority needed. 209 members voted against and 67 abstained.
Barroso was re-elected in 2009 with 488 votes, 137 against and 72 abstentions. At the time there were 736 MEPs; now there are 751.
From 1 November 2014, the choice of the Commission President and later the full college of Commissioners has to be approved by 72% of the member states, also representing 65% of the total EU population. This is now the official position based on what is set out in the treaties. It seems realistic to expect that in 2019 the Commission president will be chosen on the basis of the result of the European elections. In this way a kind of “European parliamentarism” has been established by a de facto treaty change.
According to the Lisbon Treaty, the full Commission is “elected” by the European Parliament. But it can only elect a president who is proposed by the European Council. An absolute majority of MEPs must also vote for the full Commission. The European Parliament cannot reject individual Commissioner candidates but only threaten to block the full Commission.
If the Parliament rejects a particular Commission, the whole process must start over again, and then again. There is no Treaty solution to this problem without a compromise between the prime ministers/presidents on the one hand and the absolute majority of the European Parliament on the other.
HOW THE NEW COMMISSION CAME INTO EXISTENCE
The new Commission was elected in 2014 by means of the following steps:
1. After the European elections, the outgoing leaders of the political groups met on 27 May to discuss the outcome of the election and a possible EP candidate for President of the Commission. Then the outgoing Parliament President, Martin Schulz, informed the outgoing President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, of this desire. The European Council met for an informal dinner the same day in the Justus Lipsius building.
2. The old group leaders summoned their group meetings and set up the new groups with their new or re-elected leaders. The then elected group leaders met in the Conference of Presidents and decided their strategy, choices and conditions in a compromise covering the big political families, the Socialists, Liberals and Christian Democrats. The EP had a Right political majority as in the past and the three groups therefore proposed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next Commission president. A socialist majority would have proposed the outgoing Parliament President, Martin Schulz.
3. Juncker was not the preferred choice of the European Council. The German chancellor Angela Merkel gave in to these developments and convinced others to back Juncker at a European Council meeting on 26-27 June 2014. The Prime Ministers and Presidents avoided putting forward a candidate for Commisison President who would not be supported by an absolute majority of votes in the European Parliament.
4. The proposed Commission President then took part in hearings with all the political groups in the European Parliament. The majority behind Juncker also established a political work programme with him which made concessions to the Left. The European Council also gave him political guidelines. On 15 July 2014 Juncker was then presented at a solemn plenary meeting of the European Parliament and approved.
5. Once elected the Commission President continued to consult the prime ministers and presidents in the European Council and negotiated individual Commissioner candidates with them so as to make up a full college of Commissioners. Strong prime ministers/presidents could insist on obtaining the more important portfolios for their fellow nationals. Weaker ones could try to get the best of what jobs might be left and could formally suggest a candidate who could get the best position. . . Or sometimes a candidate whom the prime minister or president wanted to get rid of at national level…
6. The European Parliament considered Commissioner proposals in intense public hearings in their committees. They rejected the Slovenian candidate, former prime minister Bratusek. Slovenia the nominated its deputy prime minister Violeta Bulc.
7. The Parliament failed to approve one commissioner even though that is against the formal Treaty rules. She chose to withdraw. Other commissioners got different portfolios following discussions in the parliamentary hearings. The European Parliament thereby got a real say in the composition of the Commission.
8. The final college was approved by the European Parliament at a plenary meeting in Strasbourg the 22 October 2014 and the day after by the prime ministers/presidents at a summit meeting in Brussels.
9. Finally, the elected Commissioners went to the European Court in Luxembourg and signed an oath to act independently in carrying out their duties. Then they started their jobs in the Berlaymont building in Brussels on 1 December 2014.
Most political families in the European Parliament have proposed their candidate for Commission President:
EPP: Jean-Claude Juncker
S&D: Martin Schulz
ALDE: Guy Verhofstadt
GREENS: Ska Keller and José Bové
GUE/NGL: Alexis Tsipras
However, these names could only be put to a vote among the citizen voters if they were also candidates for the European Parliament, and then they can only be elected in their own country.
This can be seen as an effort to increase public interest by putting well-known personalities to the fore.
It is difficult to foresee a composition of the Commission as a body representing more than a few political families. Juncker's Commission from 2014 consists of 14 EPP, 8 S&D, 5 ALDE and one ECR member.
The Barroso II Commission of 2009-14 was composed of 13 members from the European Peoples Party, EPP, 8 from the Liberal ALDE party and 6 Socialists and Democrats, S-D. There are no members from other political groupings. The Croatian member from 2013 is a social democrat.
In 2010, the Commission took 305 decisions by oral procedure, 2,785 by written procedure, 2,151 by delegation and 4,329 by sub-delegation. In total 9,570 decisions were adopted by the Commission in 2010.
In 2008, the Commission took 9,571 decisions, 269 in oral procedure and 3,067 in written procedure between the cabinets of the Commissioners, 2,227 in empowerment procedures and 4,008 in delegation or sub-delegation.
The Commission also decided 2,125 implementing measures in so-called comitology procedures. This number was 2,522 in 2007 and 2,901 in 2006.
97% of all Commission decisions were taken by written procedure, delegation or sub-delegation. Only 3% were taken in oral meetings - in 2008 269 of 11,696 decisions including implementing measures.
The Commissioners did not have a vote on a single issue during Barroso's ten years as Commission President. The Commission confirmed this in a letter of 15 May 2009.
In 2008 the Commission met 43 times and produced 420 proposals for directives, regulations and decisions and 10 recommendations. It presented 318 communications and reports, 9 Green Papers and one White Paper.
It also presented 358 communications and reports, 11 Green Papers and 4 White Papers.
In 2002 the Commission met 46 times and sent 1287 proposals to the Council and the European Parliament. These proposals consisted of 54 directives, 599 regulations and 634 decisions.
The Commission is in charge of some 3000 secret working groups. These groups are set up for agenda setting, preparing initiatives, mobilising political and organisational support for particular measures and building consensus, and sometimes they act an administrative fig-leaf when it is desired that no action should occur.
The Lisbon Treaty has changed the appointment procedure of Commissioners. Under the Nice Treaty, member states "propose" their national Commissioners and have an effective right of veto in deciding them. Under Lisbon, the member states can only "suggest" names for decision to the already appointed Commission President.
The Lisbon Treaty provided for a rotation system for Commissioners so that only 2/3 of the member states could be represented on the Commission at any one time. This proposal was abandoned following the Irish referendum on 12 June 2008 which rejected the Lisbon Treaty, as this was a particularly sensitive issue for Irish public opinion.
See Article 17-18 TEU and 244 - 250 TFEU of the Lisbon Treaty. The rules in the Nice Treaty may be found in the special protocol on enlargement, Article 4.
Here it is provided that the the number of Commissioners would be fewer than the number of member states once the EU reached 27 members. A rotation system should then be adopted unanimously.
"The number of Members of the Commission shall be set by the Council, acting unanimously". The new system replaced the previous Article 213 TEC which stated "The Commission must include at least one national of each of the Member states."
- The Lisbon Treaty also changed the requirement from a simple to an absolute majority of MEPs for approving any new Commission.
- The Commission can be dismissed by a two-thirds majority of the European Parliament, also representing an absolute majority of MEPs.
- The Commission has a General Secretariat headed by a secretary-general and has 33 standing Directorates-General.
Article 214.2.2 TEC in the Nice Treaty can be consulted for the previous procedures whereby the Commission was formally appointed by a qualified majority - 255 of 345 weighted votes from at least 18 of the 27 Prime Ministers in the European Council and then approved by a simple majority in the European Parliament.
- In the formal vote among prime ministers and presidents the qualified majority behind the new Commission under the old system should be at least 19 of the 28 prime ministers representing 260 of the 352 possible votes in the European Council.
Federalists seek a direct election of the Commission President to give him or her the same legitimacy as an American President.
Euro realists and sceptics have proposed direct election of the national Commissioners as a way of linking them more closely to citizen voters.
A possible compromise could be to combine the two proposals.
See alternative proposals under "Democracy"
See Article 17 TEU in the Lisbon Treaty
See also Salaries, Censure and Commission President and Bonde list
Web of the Commission: http://europa.eu/about-eu/institutions-bodies/index_en.htm
JUNCKER'S COMMISSION FROM 1 NOVEMBER 2014:High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission/ First Vice-Preside Vice-Presidents Members of the Commission