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The procedure
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The procedure in detail

Procedure at a glanceProcedure at a glance

The term of office of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, lasts five years. As the last ‘College of Commissioners’ was appointed in November 2004 it now has to be replaced. This requires the approval of the European Parliament.

Membership of the next Commission

Under the new Lisbon Treaty the Commission is composed of one national of each Member State. So the new Commission will have 27 Members: a President and 26 Commissioners in charge of a particular portfolio.

Several of these 26 Commissioners are Vice-Presidents assisting the President. An innovation in the Lisbon Treaty: one of these Vice-Presidents is also the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Two-stage approval by Parliament

Under Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union the European Parliament’s approval has two stages: in the first, Parliament elects the candidate proposed by the European Council for President of the Commission. The reselection of Mr José Manuel Barroso for a second term was approved by Parliament on 16 September 2009. So Mr Barroso will be President of the next Commission.

In a second stage, Parliament approves the whole Commission as a body. To prepare for its vote it considers in detail the candidates whom the Council has proposed as Commissioners by common accord with President Barroso, and in the light of the portfolios that he intends to give them.

Evaluation criteria

Parliament evaluates the Commissioners-designate on the basis of their general competence, European commitment and personal independence. It also assesses their knowledge of the prospective portfolio and their communication skills. Parliament takes particular account of the need for gender balance. It may express views on the allocation of portfolios proposed by the President-elect.

Step by step

Parliament’s approval procedure is laid down in Annex XVII to its Rules of Procedure and consists of the following steps:

  1. Parliament receives the Commissioner-designates’ curriculum vitae and their declarations of financial interests.
  2. Parliament puts to the Commissioners-designate a series of written questions dealing mainly with the candidates’ policy priorities in their respective fields of responsibility. The candidates’ written replies provide the basis for the oral stage – the hearings.
  3. Each Commissioner-designate is invited to a three-hour public hearing with the parliamentary committee(s) responsible for the portfolio concerned. These hearings enable the committees to get to know the personalities of the Commissioners-designate and have a detailed exchange of views with the various candidates on their priorities in their prospective areas of responsibility.
  4. The committees then evaluate each of the Commissioners-designate. They check that the Commissioners-designate have the skills required not only to be Members of the Commission in general, but also to be in charge of a particular portfolio.
  5. The results of the hearings are sent to the President of Parliament and considered by the Conference of Presidents, comprising the President and all political group leaders, and by the Conference of Committee Chairs.
  6. The Commission President presents the College of Commissioners-designate and their programme to a plenary sitting of Parliament which the Council of the EU is invited to attend. This presentation is followed by a debate.
  7. Lastly, Parliament votes on approval of the whole European Commission as a body. The new Commission can then be formally appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.

  • Election of the President 16-09-2009
  • List of candidates and portfolios 27-11-2009
  • Questionnaires for candidates 03-12-2009
  • Deadline for written replies 17-12-2009
  • Hearings 11>19-01-2010  
  • Conference of Presidents 21-01-2010
  • Additional hearing 03-02-2010
  • Conference of Presidents 04-02-2010
  • Debate in plenary 09-02-2010
  • Vote in plenary 09-02-2010
  • New Commission takes office 10-02-2010
The European Commission