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The European Commission

Posted by Richard Saturday, June 19, 2004

Details are set out in Article I-25. This Article starts with a general statement of the role and duties of the Commission – which is not new. However, it is useful to restate it here:

 The Commission shall promote the general interest of the Union and take appropriate initiatives to that end.
 It shall ensure that the Constitution and the measures adopted by the Institutions pursuant thereto are applied.
 It shall oversee the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It shall implement the budget and manage programmes.
 It shall exercise coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Constitution.
 With the exception of the common foreign and security policy and other cases provided for in the Constitution, it shall ensure the Union's external representation.
 It shall initiate the Union's annual and multi-annual programming with a view to achieving inter-institutional agreements.

Furthermore, the Commission retains its "right of initiative" so that legislative acts may be adopted only on the basis of a Commission proposal (although there are some exceptions, such as allowing the ECB to make economic proposals).

Before looking at the changes, it is worth stopping here and looking at these roles and duties. By any measure, what is being described here are the duties of a government. This is the definition of a government of the European Union.

Amendments

The key points are as follows:

The Members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment and their independence shall be beyond doubt.
The first Commission appointed under the provisions of the Constitution shall consist of one national of each Member State, including its President and the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs who shall be one of its Vice-Presidents.
After this Commission ends, the next one will have a number of commissioners corresponding to two thirds of the number of Member States.
The commissioners are to be selected from nationals of the Member States on the basis of a system of equal rotation between the Member States.

This system has not yet been established but must apply the following principles:

(a) Member States shall be treated on a strictly equal footing as regards determination of the sequence of, and the time spent by, their nationals as Members of the Commission; consequently, the difference between the total number of terms of office held by nationals of any given pair of Member States may never be more than one;
(b) subject to point (a), each successive Commission shall be so composed as to reflect satisfactorily the demographic and geographical range of all the Member States of the Union.

As before, the commissioners “shall be completely independent”, it should neither seek nor take instructions from any government or other institution, body, office or agency. They shall refrain from any action incompatible with their duties or the performance of their tasks.

The Commission, as a body, is responsible to the European Parliament (note, not the member states).

Under the procedures set out in Article III-243, the European Parliament may vote on a censure motion on the Commission. If such a motion is carried, the Members of the Commission shall resign as a body and the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs shall resign from the Commission.