As the “guardian of the treaties”, the Commission is responsible for ensuring European treaty law and the decisions reached by the various EU bodies are applied.
- It can be mandated to implement secondary legislation and can enact binding legislative instruments in that capacity.
- It alone has the right to propose legislation relating to the upholding, elaboration and application of community policy (“right of initiative”), except in some areas of justice and home affairs, where it shares that right with the member states.
- The Commission is also responsible for negotiating trade and other agreements with non-EU countries, whenever they fall within the EU’s remit.
The composition of the European Commission follows the principle of “one member state, one commissioner”, which means that the Commission currently has 28 members. It is a collegiate body and usually makes decisions as a college. The term of office is five years. The name “European Commission” refers not only to the college of commissioners but also to the subordinate administrative body with its approximately 33,000 staff.
The President of the Commission (the position held by Jean-Claude Juncker since 2014) is one of its 28 members. He or she sets basic policy and is elected by the European Parliament, with candidates for election proposed once the European Council has proposed a candidate in consideration of the outcome of the European parliamentary elections. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Federica Mogherini since 2014) is also the Vice-President of the Commission and therefore another one of its 28 members.
The High Representative is appointed by the European Council with the approval of the Commission President. The remaining members of the Commission are selected by the Commission President in liaison with the Council, on the basis of proposals from the member states. Before the Commission can conclusively be appointed by the European Council, the European Parliament needs to confirm the choice of President, High Representative and the other Commission members as a college. Germany’s current commissioner is Günther Oettinger, whose remit is the Digital Economy and Society.
Find out more on the European Commission’s own website: