ContentsThe European CommissionThe Commission dates back to the establishment of the ” Coal and Steel Community” which was set up in 1951. Where it originally was part it executive branch, originally known as the ” High Authority” It became known as the European Commission after the Coal and steel Community was disbanded in 1967. It originally had only nine members but its size has grown with enlargement to thirteen, fourteen, seventeen, twenty, twenty five and currently twenty seven following its latest enlargement in 2007, where there is one Commissioner per country. Prior to 2004, five of the larger states (Germany, France, Spain, the UK and Italy) had two Commissioners. But this was changed to one representative per country following an agreement at the Niece Summit in 2000 that from January 2005 all member states would have just one Commissioner per country. The European Commission’s headquarters are located Brussels, in an area known as the European Quarter. It originally shared a building with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, but was relocated to its own building in 1967. Since then Commission has grown quite considerably now occupying over 60 buildings in Brussels, containing 38, 000 staff, which is comprised of administrators, lawyers, economists, translators, interpreters, secretarial staff, etc. organised in departments known as Directorates-General. The Commission has a wide range of functions; this varies from administration, budgeting and policy implementation and control. The term ” Commission” refers to both the College of 27 Commissioners, and the wider administrative institution, which is in effect the European civil service. According to the Lisbon Treaty, the function of the European Commission is to promote the general interest of the union, ensure application of treaties and oversee application of European Union Law. It also has the ” right of initiative” to propose new legislation. The Commission was one known as the ” High Authority” but its position has varied and changed from this position, where it was once heralded as the ” Embryonic European Government” to the lesser role of ” Community Civil Service” or ” Brussels Bureaucrats” during its lifetime. The Commissions balance of power has suffered as a result of greater powers being given to the European Parliament. During the late 1990s the Commission reputation was tarnished, by allegations of corruption and malpractice. This eventually led to a mass resignation of all the Commissioners in 1999. However, since then their reputation has been enhanced due the progress made with regards to European integration where it is now seen to have adopted a role of motivator, and negotiator. It is also the role of the Commission to represent Europe on external relations where it negotiates trade agreements with countries outside of the EU. It also represents the EU at the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.
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The European Commission is one of the main institutions in the European Union. A member of the Commission is called a Commissioner. There are currently 27 Commissioners, each Commissioner represents a member state of the European Union. The Commissioner is nominated by their countries government; they are appointed or rejected under a procedure involving the President of the Commission, The European Parliament and the Council. Commissioners are appointed for a period of 5 years, which is renewable. They must also be EU citizens. To date there has been one rejection for Commissioner; where in 2004 Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian Christian Democrat politician was nominated by Italy for the role of Justice Freedom and Security, but was rejected because of his anti-gay stance. In 2010 Rumiana Ruseva Jeleva who was a Bulgaria’s minister of foreign affairs (July 2009 – January 2010) withdrew her nomination for the role of Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner. After rigorous questioning by the European Parliament’s development committee. Her nomination was questioned by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and Liberal groups who had expressed concern about her lack of experience. It was found that she only gave vague answered to questions and showed that she had very little experience and knowledge regarding her nominated position. She was also questioned over financial irregularities of her husband’s business. A letter was sent to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on behalf of the development committee asking whether Jeleva’s declaration of financial interests was in line with the code of conduct for Commissioners and whether she was a suitable candidate to be a Commissioner. Commissioners are elected to represent the interest of the European Union as a whole, and not the interests of just their country. When elected they have to take an oath or solemn declaration at the European Court of Justice to: Respect the European Treaties and to be completely independent during their term in office and to respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Since the Lisbon Treaty, Commissioners should also be chosen on the grounds of general competence, they should have experience and knowledge regarding their role in the Commission.
Every Commissioner must declare their financial interests, to do this they are required to fill in a form to declare their interests, if any. The form includes information on former and current outside activities, financial interests and assets, and spouses’ activities. The form must be completed when the Member of the Commission takes office and revised during his or her term of office if the information changes. The form is signed and dated by the Commissioner; information contained in these forms is openly accessible on the European Commission’s website. This information includesPrevious ActivitiesOutside ActivitiesFinancial interests – e. g. shares and stockAssetsSpouse / Partners interests and/or Professional activitySee attached documents for examples of two of thesePrior to the Treaty of Amsterdam 1997, membership of the Commission deemed to be weighted to favour the bigger countries where membership of the Commission could be 2 members for these countries. This gave them more voting power making their system of qualified majority voting unfair to the smaller countries. Membership was also due to be reduced to two thirds of membership countries, after the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. This would have meant that some countries would not have a Commissioner to represent them. But concessions given to Ireland as a result of the Irish people rejecting the first referendum (2008). The actual wording of the treaty states that membership must be less than the sum of the countries in the European Union. A work around was of this there are actually 26 members of the commission and the new extra role of ” The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy” The post of High Representative is proposed by the European Council and must appear before the European Parliament for questioning prior to a vote of approval from the Parliament. The Commissions internal decision making process is based on consensus where it will strive to reach agreement by arguing and bargaining. Voting will take place if consensus has not been achieved. All members of the Commission including the President carry the same weight (one person one vote), and an absolute majority is necessary for a final decision to be reached. The Commission is also responsible for initiating and putting together the European common policies. Each commissioner is assigned the responsibility for a specific policy area by the President. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Ireland Máire Geoghegan-QuinnIrelands Commissioner is Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, her portfolio is Research, Innovation & Science.
The President of the Commission
José Manuel Barroso, Portugal President is José Manuel BarrosoThe Commission is headed by a president, who is nominated by the European Council and approved by the European Parliament. The President serves for a five year term, which is renewable. The current President is José Manuel Barroso. The task of President is toTo convene and chair meetings and approve agendasLay down guidelines for work of the commission and decide its internal organisationDistribute policy portfolios to the commissioners at the beginning of each term, he can also shuffle the portfolios mid-term and ask commissioners to resign if necessaryAssign a themselves with duties and a policy portfolio that interests themRegularly take questions before the European Parliament (in the same style as the British house of commons)Represent the commission in dealings with other EU institutions and key meetings of national governments and leaders.
All Commissioners are given a portfolio /policy by the President. There was a lot of lobbying and arguments made to the President prior to the Amsterdam Treaty as to which country had the most ” important” of the portfolios. Countries that were considered to have more political weight unfairly tended to be allocated these positions ” regardless of experience”. The change in the Amsterdam Treaty was that only the President alone could allocate the portfolios stating their responsibilities and structure to the Commissioners. Another new change was that the portfolios could be reshuffled during mid-term by the President if he saw fit.
Functions of the Commission.
Budgeting and Funding
The Commission is also responsible for setting up the long term spending priorities for the European Union, as well drawing up the budget for the year. Both of which are subject to approval by the European Council and Parliament. The Commission along with the Court of Auditors also ensures the EU funds are spent correctly by member state countries.