|European Parliament Fact Sheets|
1.3.8. The Commission
211 to 219 (155 to 163) ECT.
The Commission is composed of 20 Members, or Commissioners (two for each "large Member State", and one for each of the others).
Commission is the Community's one executive body. To begin with, each Community had its own executive the High Authority for the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, and a Commission for each of the two communities set up by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the EEC and Euratom. These three bodies merged into a single European Commission under the Treaty of 8 April 1965, which took effect on 1 July 1967 (* 1.1.2.).
COMPOSITION AND LEGAL STATUS
1. Number of Members
Under the Treaty the Commission is composed of 20 Members, at least one and not more than two per Member State. In practice the five most populous countries return two Commissioners and the others one.
The protocol on the institutions, annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam (amending the various European treaties) makes provision to amend the Commission's composition in the event of further enlargement:
2. Method of nomination
Treaty of Amsterdam made substantial changes.
3. Legal status
a. Term of office
Since the Treaty of Maastricht a Commissioner's term of office has matched Parliament's legislative term of five years. It is renewable.
b. Personal accountability (Articles 213(2) and 216)
- Members of the Commission are required:
- Commissioners can be dismissed by the Court of Justice, at the request of the Council or the Commission itself,
c. Collective accountability
The Commission is collectively accountable to Parliament under Article 201 (144). If Parliament adopts a motion of censure against the Commission, all of its Members are required to resign.
1. Allocation of tasks and administrative organization
- After establishing the Commission the President allocates the sectors of its activity among the Members. This gives each Commissioner responsibility for a specific sector and authority over the administrative departments concerned.
- The Commission can appoint one or two Vice-Presidents from among its Members. It normally appoints two (up to the Treaty of Maastricht there were six, appointed by common accord of the Member States).
- The Commission has a general secretariat consisting of 23 directorates-general and 14 specialist departments, including the Legal Service, Statistical Office and Publications Office
2. Method of decision-making
With one or two exceptions, the Commission takes decisions by a majority vote, under Article 17 of the Merger Treaty. This establishes the principle of collegiate responsibility.
As it acts in the common interest the Commission is responsible for launching Community action and ensuring that it is carried out.
1. Power of initiative
As a rule the Commission has a monopoly on the initiative in Community decision-making. It draws up proposals for a decision by the two decision-making institutions, Parliament and the Council.
a. Full initiative: the power of proposal
The power of proposal is the complete form of the power of initiative, as it is always exclusive and is relatively constraining on the decision-making authority, which cannot take a decision unless there is a proposal and must base it on the proposal as presented.
- Legislative initiative The Commission draws up and submits to the Council and Parliament any legislative proposals (regulations or directives) that are needed to implement the treaties (* 1.4.1.). In drawing up such proposals the Commission normally takes account of the national authorities' guidelines. This concern was one of the aspects of the 1966 ‘Luxembourg Compromise'. This document, which is a declaration with no legal value (* 1.1.2.), expresses the wish that where proposals are of a particularly delicate nature (of ‘particular importance') the Commission will contact the governments of the Member States before drafting begins, but it does add that such consultation must not affect the Commission's right of initiative.
- Budgetary initiative The Commission draws up the preliminary draft budget, which is put to the Council under Article 272(2) and (3) [203(2) and (3)] (* 1.4.3.).
- Initiative in Community relations with third countries The Commission is responsible for negotiating international agreements under Articles 133 and 300 (113 and 228), which are then put to the Council for conclusion.
b. Limited initiative: the power of recommendation or opinion
form of initiative differs from the previous kind because, firstly, it does not always give the Commission exclusive rights and, secondly, it does not form the only basis for decision-making by the authority concerned.
- in the context of economic and monetary union:
- Under the common foreign and security policy and police and judicial cooperation: in these areas, not only is the Commission fully involved in the Council's work, but it may also — in the same way as the Member States — consult the Council on any proposal, under Articles 22 and 34(2) EUT [J.12 and K.6].
2. Powers to monitor the implementation of Community law
The Community treaties require the Commission to ensure they are properly implemented, together with any decision taken to implement them (secondary law). This is its role as guardian of the treaties. It does so mainly through the‘ failure to act' procedure under Article 226 (169) ECT: if it considers that a Member State has failed to fulfil an obligation under the treaty, it can initiate proceedings by requiring the State concerned to submit its observations. If these do not satisfy the Commission it delivers a reasoned opinion requiring the matter to be put right by a specific date; after that date it can ask the Court of Justice to settle the matter.
3. Implementing powers
a. Conferred by the treaties
The main ones are:
b. Delegated by the Council
Articles 124 EAEC and 211 (155) ECT state that the Commission must exercise the powers conferred on it by the Council for the implementation of the rules laid down by the Council. The Single Act amended the EC Treaty, in Article 202, so as to require the Council to confer such powers, but it also allowed the Council:
As part of these ‘requirements' the Council has taken to setting up ‘committees' composed of national civil servants which are associated with the Commission's implementing powers. While some of these committees are only advisory, others make it possible to curb the Commission's powers (in the case of management committees) or even absorb them (in the case of regulatory committees). Parliament has repeatedly criticised the adverse effects of this ‘commitology', which is increasingly inappropriate as the codecision procedure spreads into general use; see in particular Parliament's resolution of 13 December 1990. But instead of solving the problem as Parliament requested, the Amsterdam Treaty merely invites the institutions to do so.
However, there is one area in which Council regulatory acts have conferred considerable implementing powers on the Commission. This concerns the competition rules applying to companies — concerted practice and abuse of a dominant position (* 3.3.1. and 3.3.2.).
4. Regulatory powers
The treaties seldom give the Commission full regulatory powers.
a. In the ‘obsolete' provisions:
b. In provisions that remain in force:
5. Consultative powers
- The treaties give the Commission a general power of recommendation and opinion, under Article 211 (155) ECT.
- They also provide for it to be consulted on certain decisions, such as on the admission of new Member States to the Union, under Article 49 EUT;
- Lastly, the Commission is consulted on the Statute for MEPs and the Statute for the Ombudsman.