The European Commission (EC) is the executive body of the European Union (EU) responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union’s treaties and day-to-day running of the EU.
The EC operates as a cabinet government, with 28 members of the EC (informally known as ‘Commissioners’). There is one member per member state, though members are bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than their home state. One of the 28 is the Commission President (currently Mr Jean-Claude Juncker) proposed by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament. The Council then appoints the other 27 members of the Commission in agreement with the nominated President, and then the 28 members as a single body are subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.
The terms “European Commission” also represent the administrative body of about 23,000 European civil servants who are split into departments called Directorate-General and Services.
The Commission has the right of initiative to propose laws for adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (national ministers). In most cases, the Commission makes proposals to meet its obligations under the EU treaties, or because another EU institution, country or stakeholder has asked it to act. From April 2012, EU citizens may also call on the Commission to propose laws (European Citizens’ Initiative).
Before making proposals, the Commission consults widely so that stakeholders’ views can be taken into account. In general, an assessment of the potential economic, social and environmental impact of a given piece of legislation act is published along with the proposal itself.
The principles of subsidiarity and proportionality mean that the EU may legislate only where action is more effective at EU level than at national, regional or local level, and then no more than necessary to attain the agreed objectives.
Once EU legislation has been adopted, the Commission ensures that it is correctly applied by the EU Member States.