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 from the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to work out compromises on new 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 overrule all 28 member states minus one. On the other hand, the Commission is required to ensure that there is a qualified majority of member states for the adoption of any EU law.
The Commission also implements the rules. Here they can decide on their own unless a qualified majority in the Council or an absolute majority in the European Parliament ask the issue to 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 among the Prime Ministers or Heads of States in the European Council and an absolute majority of MEPs.
In 2014 the European Parliament established a democratic “coup” against the treaty rules and proposed Jean-Claude Juncker as the President of the Commission. The prime ministers and presidents in the European Council were taken by surprise. To avoid a constitutional battle and crises the European Council also proposed Juncker with 26 votes against Britain and Hungary.
Juncker was then elected President 15 July 2014 with 422 votes, agauinst 250, 47 abstained and 10 not valid votes. There are 751 members of the European Parliament. 22 October 2014 the whole college was approved by 423 MEPs in Strasbourg - 47 more than the absolute majority needed. 209 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 must be approved by 72% of the member states also representing 65% of the total EU population. This is now theory. In 2019 one may expect the Commission president to be the result of the European elections. A kind of “European parliamentarism” has been established by a de facto treaty change.
According to the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission is “elected” by the European Parliament. But they can only elect a president proposed by the European Council. An absolute majority of MEPs must also vote for the full Commission. The European Parliament cannot reject individual candidate but only threaten to block the full Commission.
If the Parliament rejects a particular Commission, the process must start over again, and again, and again. There is no Treaty solution without a compromise between the prime ministers and the absolute majority in the European Parliament.
THE NEW COMMISSION
The new Commission was elected after this procedure:
1. After the European elections, the outgoing leaders of the political groups met May 27, 11.30 am to discuss the outcome of the election and a possible EP candidate for the head of the Commission. Then the outgoing President Martin Schulz informed the outgoing President for the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. European Council met for an informal dinner the same day in the Justus Lipsius building.
2. The old group leaders called for group meetings and established 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 and choices and conditions in a compromise covering thre big families, the Socialists, Liberals and Christian Democrats. The EP had a Right 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 and convinced others to back Juncker in a European Council meeting on 26-27 June 2014. The Prime Ministers avoided putting forward a candidate who could not gather an absolute majority of votes in the European Parliament.
4. The proposed Commission President was then taking part in hearings in all political groups in the European Parliament. The majority behind Juncker also established a political work program with consessions to the left. The European Council also established political guidelines. 15 July 2014 Juncker was then presented in a solemn plenary meeting in the European Parliament and approved.
5. When elected the Commission President continued to consult prime ministers or presidents and negotiated candidates with them for a full college of Commissioners. Strong prime ministers could insist on obtaining the more important portfolios. Weaker ones could try to get the best of what may be left and could formally suggest the candidate, which could get the best position. Or alternatively, a candidate the prime minister or president wished to get rid of at national level…
6. The European Parliament received all proposals for intense public hearings in their committees and rejected the Slovenian candidate, former prime minister Bratusek. Instead Slovenia sent the vice prime minister Violeta Bulc.
7. The Parliament disapproved one commissioner even if that is against the formal Treaty rules. She chose to withdraw. Other commissioners got changed portfolios. Parliament has got a real say on the composition of the Commission.
8. The final college was approved by the European Parliament in a plenary meeting in Strasbourg the 22 October 2014 and the day after by the prime ministers in a summit meeting in Brussels.
9. Finally, the elected Commissioners will then go to the European Court in Luxembourg and sign an oath to act independently in carrying out their duties – then; they can start their jobs in the Berlaymont building in Brussels 1 December 2014.
Most political families have proposed their candidate for the Commission President:
EPP Jean-Claude Juncker
S&D Martin Schulz
ALDE Guy Verhofstadt
GREENS Ska Keller and José Bové
GUE/NGL Alexis Tsipras
However, they could only be put to a vote among the 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 heads in front.
It is difficult to foresee a composition of the Commission as a body representing more than a few political families. Juckers Commission from 2014 consists of 14 EPP, 8 S&D, 5 ALDE and one ECR member.
The Barroso II Commission from 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 Croatia 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 2,3% 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 Barrosos 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, 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 as 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 will 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 after the Irish referendum on 12 June 2008 rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.
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 following Commission shall be smaller than having individual Commissioner one from each member state when the EU has reached 27 members. A rotation system shall be adopted unanimously.
"The number of Members of the Commission shall be set by the Council, acting unanimously". The new system replaced Article 213 TEC stating: "The Commission must include at least one national of each of the Member states".
- The Lisbon Treaty also changed the requirement from simple to absolute majority of MEPs for the approval of the 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 33 standing Directorates General.
Article 214.2.2 TEC in the Nice Treaty can be consulted for the previous procedures where 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 or presidents the qualified majority behind the new Commission should be at least 19 of the 28 prime ministers representing 260 of the 352 possible votes in the European Council.
Federalists may wish a direct election of the Commission President to give him or her the same legitimacy as President Obama.
Instead, Euro realists and sceptics have proposed direct election of the national Commissioners linking them to the 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
JUNCKERS COMMISSION FROM 1 NOVEMBER 2014:High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission First Vice-President Vice-Presidents Members of the Commission