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