The European Commission is the executive body of the EU and runs its day-to-day business. It is made up of the College of Commissioners, 27 European Commissioners, one for each member state, who are each responsible for one or several policy areas. In addition, the 'Commission' also refers to the entire administrative body that supports the Commissioners, consisting of the Directorates-General and the Services.
The European Commission is the sole EU body capable of proposing new legislation. The Commission also performs an oversight function, monitoring whether European legislation is properly implemented in the member states. In the event of non-compliance, the Commission can coerce a member state to comply by starting a legal procedure at the European Court of Justice.
Besides this, the Commission represents the EU in negotiations in international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation concerning the Union's trade relations with countries outside the EU. It holds this function so that it can monitor for any unauthorized state support by foreign governments to European companies, which would jeopardize Europe's competitive position. Finally, the Commission is responsible for managing the European budget of approximately 150 billion euros yearly.
The current von der Leyen Commission assumed office on the 2nd of December 2019.
The separation of powers between the three most important institutions of the European Union can be summarized in broad strokes: the European Commission proposes new legislation and regulation, the European Parliament debates these and can propose amendments, following which Parliament and the Council of the European Union jointly finalise a decision. The European Court of Justice watches over the integrity of these decisions. Its rulings hold priority over the legislation of member states.
The Commission has five main tasks:
The European Commission is the sole holder of the right of legislative initiative within the EU. It formulates draft legislation for various areas of EU policy, but mainly in the internal market, economic coordination, justice and internal affairs, transport, industry, social and employment policy, agriculture, environment, energy, regional development, trade relations and development aid.
-Enforcing European legislation
The Commission is tasked with monitoring whether EU-legislation is properly implemented in the member states. It may refer infractions or negligence to the European Court.
The most prominent area of EU policy enforced by the Commission is competition in the internal market. The Commission determines whether major corporate fusions and take-overs contribute to a dangerous extent to monopoly-formation, and monitors whether member states offer unjustified state aid to industry.
The European Commission acts as the representative of the EU on the world stage, in conferences of groups such as the World Trade Organisation.
-Managing the budget
The Commission is responsible for administration of the communal EU-budget, under oversight of the European Court of Auditors.
-Publishing advice and recommendations
The European Commission consists of 27 members, together referred to as the College of Commissioners, and a sizeable administrative office. Each Commissioner heads one or more directorates-general, which in turn cover one or more areas of policy.
A position created in the Juncker Commission, the Vice Presidents have a special role. Each heads a project team, covering a cluster of closely connected policy areas, which can block proposals by other Commissioners.
The Commission generally meets once a week in Brussels, on Wednesday. At these meetings, each Commissioner explains the items on the agenda related to their area of policy. Decisions are made by the 27 members of the Commission by unqualified majority vote. Once a decision has been made, it is integral to Commission policy.
-Eurocommissioners. The 27 members of the European Commission hold their office for a five-year term, and can be re-elected. The President of the College of Commissioners is Ursula von der Leyen (Germany), since December 2019.
-Directorates-general. There are 'political' directorates-general, directorates-general for foreign relations and several for general and internal services of the Commission.
-Internal organisation. The European Commission employs around 37.500 civil servants, making it the largest EU institution by far.
The legal foundations for the European Commission and its powers are codified in the Treaty on European Union (also known as the Maastricht Treaty) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
-Composition and organisation: TFEU part six, title I, Chapter 1, section four (articles 244-250)
-Dismissal upon rejection: TFEU part six, Title I, Chapter 1, first part of article 234.
Fact sheet by the European Parliament