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Study Notes

European Commission

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This is the SUPRA-NATIONAL "Civil Service" of the EU. In other words, it is a body above and superior to national governments, to which some degree of national SOVEREIGNTY must be ceded (. Members of the Commission swear allegiance to the EU, not to their own country, which is perhaps why they are so disliked by “Euro-sceptics”.

The Commission consists of The PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION, 27 COMMISSIONERS (e.g. Lord Mandelson was once the Trade Commissioner), and 20,000 Staff (1/3 of whomare translators), serving 36 DIRECTORATES (Departments).

The European Commission is based in Brussels, and is chaired by the President of the Commission, who is elected by the European Council and confirmed by the European Parliament. The President is now Jean-Claude Juncker, and is the public face of the Commission, co-ordinating the EU but with no executive powers himself.

Each Commissioner has responsibility for an area of policy (e.g. agriculture, transport, etc.), rather like a cabinet minister. Voting in the Commission is by majority: thereafter, collective responsibility applies. Commissioners are usually ex-politicians. They are nominated by member states, elected by the European Council and confirmed by the European Parliament.

The 20,000 Staff ("The Brussels Bureaucrats”, to critics) are in fact a small Euro-elite, rather than a bloated bureaucracy, probably too few to do all the tasks now given to them properly. The UK, by comparison, had 498,000 civil servants in 2008.

The Commission has a pivotal role within the EU. Though it is technically right to call it the EU’s “Civil Service”, it has much more independence of mind than a British Civil Service could ever have. Indeed, under recent Presidents it has become a driving force behind further integration.

The Commission proposes and administers the budget, checking that member states are implementing EU policy, fines companies that are not following EU law, translates documents into the “official” languages of the EU, mediates between EU states, proposes policy to the Council of Ministers and proposes and prepares legislation

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