Short for EC by abbreviationfinder, the European Commission in Brussels is in many ways the EU’s most central institution with its three tasks: to propose rules, to enforce and monitor. The Commission consists of a President and 27 Commissioners, one from each Member State and appointed for five years.
The President of the European Commission is usually picked up from Europe’s incumbent or former prime ministers. The person is nominated by the Heads of State and Government, who will take into account how the last election to the European Parliament turned out, and will then be elected by the European Parliament. If a majority of the members do not want to approve the proposal, a new name must be submitted.
When a new Commission President was to be appointed in the summer of 2014, the European Parliament called for the outcome of the EU elections in May of the same year to be decisive; the candidate who was supported by the largest party group in parliament should receive the post, the so-called “spitzenkandidat procedure”. The Heads of State and Government could not respond with corresponding agreement but gave in. The bourgeois predominance of elections therefore resulted in the Christian Democrat Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg becoming President of the European Commission from November 2014. Juncker was replaced on 1 December 2019 by Ursula von der Leyen from Germany.
The other 27 EU Commissioner posts go to people nominated by each Member State, in consultation with the newly elected President of the Commission. They are almost always picked up by current or former members of the government. Each Commissioner is responsible for one policy area. They must work for the common good and may not receive instructions from their home countries or from parties, companies or organizations. Swedish Commissioner from January 2015 to the end of November 2019 was the former Minister of Europe Cecilia Malmström (liberal). Her area of responsibility was trade issues. The new Swedish commissioner is the Social Democrat Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for migration.
The European Commission is preparing proposals for new rules and laws. In the vast majority of areas, the Commission has the exclusive right to submit proposals, which gives it a strong grip on the discussions that are to follow. In, for example, foreign and security policy, individual member states can also submit proposals. For its part, the European Parliament has the opportunity to call on the Commission to examine and propose new legislation. EU citizens also have this opportunity through the citizens’ initiative, if they succeed in collecting at least one million signatures from at least seven countries.
The Commission’s other important task is to implement decisions taken by the Council of Ministers, for example through the specialized EU agencies and bodies that exist – about 40 deployed in different EU countries with tasks such as working environment, human rights, chemicals, etc.
A third task is to ensure that Member States apply the common rules. If a country does not comply with the rules, the Commission must notify the country to the European Court of Justice.
The Commission is also the institution that represents the EU in negotiations with the outside world, for example with trading partners or countries seeking EU membership.
Around 30,000 people work in the Commission, of which close to a third are interpreters or translators. The staff is divided into Directorates-General for different areas of responsibility. The nationality of the employees must reflect the composition of the European population.
The Directorates-General set up working groups and committees with government officials or independent experts from the Member States. Some of the committees participate in the work on future rule proposals. Others manage and decide on technical details that may be important, such as lists of banned ingredients in food or the management of mad cow disease.