The European Commission is based in Brussels in Belgium. It also has offices in Luxembourg, representations in all EU countries and delegations in many capital cities around the world.
It is made up of 28 Commissioners, one from each Member State.
The Commission has a number of important functions:
- The Commission initiates legislation. It makes proposals for European laws, which are sent to the Council and European Parliament for amendment and approval.
- The Commission acts as a guardian of the EU treaties. It ensures that EU legislation is applied by all Member States. It can institute proceedings against Member States or businesses that fail to comply with EU law.
- The Commission acts as an executive body - it manages policies and the annual budget.
- The Commission represents the EU on the international stage. It negotiates trade and co-operation agreements with non-EU countries.
The President of the Commission is nominated by common agreement of the Governments of the Member States after consultation with the European Parliament. Once the President is nominated, the other members of the Commission are selected and agreed. In practice, the Government of each Member State nominates a Commissioner according to its own selection procedure. This means that the Commission reflects a variety of talents and vocations such as politicians, lawyers, civil servants and academics. The Parliament must then vote to approve the appointment of the President and the other members of the Commission. If the Parliament should refuse to appoint one or more of the Commissioners, the selection process must start again. Members of the Commission are appointed for a renewable term of 5 years.
The current Commission will be in office from 2014 to 2019. The President of the Commission is appointed for a renewable 5 year term.
Commissioners are given a portfolio which is his/her area of responsibility. It is up to the President of the Commission to decide which Commissioner will be responsible for each policy area/portfolio and to reshuffle these responsibilities (if necessary) during the Commission's term of office. Commissioners act independently in the interests of the EU. They do not represent the interests of their own Member State.
Each Commissioner appoints a cabinet of his/her own choice headed by the chef de cabinet. The cabinet consists of a small group of counsellors (usually about five) who assist him/her in the preparation of Commission decisions.
As well as the cabinets, the Commission's personnel is organised into specialist departments called "Directorates General" which are in turn divided into Directorates and then into Units. At the head of each department, there is a Director General responsible to the relevant Commissioner.
To assist the Commissioners in the performance of their duties, there is a staff of about 23,000 people employed and paid by the Commission. This staff comes from all of the Member States and includes language experts, lawyers, experts in particular fields such as agriculture or industry and administrative staff. The entire Commission may be forced to resign en masse by the European Parliament. Two-thirds of the votes cast and at least half of the MEPs must pass a motion of censure of the Commission.
The Commission meets once a week to adopt proposals, finalise policy papers and make decisions. Decisions are taken by a simple majority vote. Once a decision is taken, it becomes Commission policy and has the full support of all Commissioners.
The European Commission Representation in Ireland offers a public information centre with information on all aspects of Europe.
Further information on the European Commission is available on the Commission's website.