The European Commission is the executive of the European Union. This means that it is responsible for initiating laws, enforcing the laws of the EU and managing the EU’s policies.
It is made up of 27 commissioners (one from each member state) and is based in Brussels. Each member state nominates a commissioner, but the nominated candidates must be approved by the European Parliament. The Parliament must also approve the President of the European Commission.
The current President of the European Commission is Ursula von der Leyen.
Commissioners do not represent their countries. Instead, they have a field of responsibility. You can read a list of current Commissioners.
To assist the commissioners in the performance of their duties, there is a staff of about 32,000 people employed by the Commission. This staff comes from all of the Member States and includes policy officers, translators, lawyers and researchers.
What does the European Commission do?
The Commission has the following functions:
- Legislation – The Commission initiates legislation. It makes proposals for laws that are sent to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union for approval. You can read more about how EU laws are passed.
- Upholding EU law – The Commission can take action against businesses or states that are failing to comply with EU law.
- Policy – The Commission is the executive of the EU. It manages policies and drafts budgets.
- Representation – The Commission represents the EU in negotiations with other countries or organisations.
The Commission meets once a week to adopt proposals, finalise policy papers and make decisions. Decisions are taken by a simple majority vote.
The role of commissioners
After each European election, the European Council proposes a president of the Commission. This nominee must be approved by a majority of the Parliament.
The commissioners are then nominated and they too must be approved by the Parliament. The Government of each Member State nominates a commissioner. Each individual commissioner is subject to scrutiny by the relevant committee of the European Parliament before the vote by Parliament takes place.
The current Commission will be in office from 2019 to 2024. The President of the Commission is appointed for a renewable 5 year term.
What do commissioner do?
Commissioners are given a portfolio which is their 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 change 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 them 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.
Further information and contacts
Further information on the European Commission is available on the Commission's website.