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European Union Basics (FAQ), Part4/8

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                                         EU Basics FAQ: The European Commission
General information

   The European Commission is the body with the formal and exclusive power to
   initiate all EU legislation, and which is supposed to represent the interest
   of the Union as a whole, both in the political processes within the EU as in
   negotiations with the outside world. This means that it must take no
   instruction from any of the member states' governments; it is accountable
   only to the European Parliament (as well as, as any EU institution, to the
   European Court). Also, it is the main body with a duty to look after correct
   implementation of the treaties and subsequent legislation.
   The Commission's members are nominated by their national governments and
   must be acceptable to all the government leaders of the member states. Small
   member states each have one Commissioner, while the larger ones (Germany,
   France, Italy, UK, Spain) each have two. That makes a total of 20
   Commissioners now.
   Generally, every Commission is more or less balanced in party affiliation
   (Britain always appoints a Tory and a Labour candidate, and   the Benelux
   countries used to see  to it that one of their Commissioners was a
   Socialist, one a Christian-Democrat and one a Liberal. This is, in fact, no
   longer the case (at present, for instance, there are two Christian-Democrats
   and one Socialist for the Benelux countries. In the previous Commission,
   this was the same, though with partly different members).
The Directorates-General of the Commission

   The Commission is a big organisation, whose tasks have been divided in
   different departments or Directorates-General on the one hand, and some
   supporting services on the other hand.
  DG I                   External Economic Relations
  DG IA                  External Political Relations
  DG II                  Economic and Financial Affairs
  DG III                 Industry
  DG IV                  Competition
  DG V                   Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs
  DG VI                  Agriculture
  DG VII                 Transport
  DG VIII                Development
  DG IX                  Personnel and Administration
  DG X                   Information, Communication, Culture, Audiovisual
  DG XI                  Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection
  DG XII                 Science, Research and Development
  DG XIII                Telecommunications, Information Market and
                         Exploitation of Research
  DG XIV                 Fisheries
  DG XV                  Internal Market and Financial Services
  DG XVI                 Regional Policies
  DG XVII                Energy
  DG XVIII               Credit and Investments
  DG XIX                 Budgets
  DG XX                  Financial Control
  DG XXI                 Customs and Indirect Taxation
  DG XXII                Education, Training and Youth
  DG XXIII               Enterprise Policy, Distributive Trades, Tourism and
  DG XXIV                Consumer Policy
      Secretariat-General of the Commission
      Forward Studies Unit
      Joint Research Centre
      Legal Service
      Spokesman's Service
      Joint Interpreting and Conference Service
      Statistical Office (EUROSTAT)
      Translation Service
      Informatics Directorate
      Security Office
      European Community Humanitarian Office
      Euratom Supply Agency
      Office for Official Publications of the European Communities
      Enlargement Task Force (TFE)
   It might be worth pointing out that the relationship between the Commission
   Members themselves and the staff of the European Commission is similar to
   that between Government ministers and the permanent civil service, in the
   sense that the former have no security of tenure, and inevitably with a
   different number of Commission Members and DGs their portfolios don't
   necessarily correspond directly to the DG structure.
Who is the President (chairman) of the European Commission?

   The function of President (or chair) of the Commission has undoubtedly
   become much more important in the last ten years. This has much to do with
   the personal style of the man who has held the job for the last ten years,
   the French socialist Jacques Delors, and the extension of the EU's powers
   during his presidency. Mr. Delors predecessors were mainly considered top
   civil servants, but the political profile of the function has become much
   These are the Commission presidents since the 1967 merger[1]:
  1967-1970              Mr Jean Rey (Liberal, BE)
  1970-1972              Mr Malfatti (Christian Democrat, IT)
  1972                   Mr Sicco Mansholt (Socialist, NL)
  1973-1976              Mr Frangois Ortoli (Gaullist, FR)
  1977-1980              Mr Roy Jenkins (Socialist [now LibDem], UK)
  1981-1984              Mr Gaston Thorn (Liberal, LU)
  1985-1994              Mr Jacques Delors (Socialist, FR)
  1995-2000              Mr Jacques Santer (Christian Democrat, LU)
   As Richard Corbett[2] writes,
       +A new Commission is chosen every five years in the months followin
     g the European parliamentary elections by a two-step procedure. In th
     e first step, the European Council[3] (Heads of Governments of Member
      States) choose a candidate for President of the Commission. This can
     didate must be chosen by consensus, which is sometimes hard to reach.
      The candidate is then presented to the European Parliament which tak
     es a vote on the candidate, by a simple majority of those voting. Thi
     s is formally a consultative vote, though it is hard to imagine a can
     didature proceeding any further should Parliament's vote be negative.
       In the second phase of the procedure, the Member States agree, afte
     r consulting the President-designate, on the remaining members of the
      Commission. The Commission as a whole then agrees itself on the allo
     cation of portfolios among the members and on its programme, which it
      presents to the European Parliament. The Commission may only take of
     fice if it then obtains a vote of confidence from the European Parlia
     ment (simple majority of those voting). Prior to the vote of confiden
     ce, Parliament organizes public hearings with each of the candidates
     who must appear before the parliamentary committee which corresponds
     to their prospective portfolios.;
   The EP approved Mr.Santer by a margin of only 22 votes on July 21st., 1994.
   After the EP organised hearings for all other prospective members of the
   Commission, the new Commission started work at the end of January, 1995.
Where can I find the European Commission on the net?

       NOTE: This section contains information that is no longer up-to-dat
     e. It will be updated in the next version of the FAQ
   Most people working at the European Commission should now be reachable
   though the Internet at the address <>.
   The example of <> is purely fictional because this
   address system applies only to the Commission's staff (civil servants),
   rather than the Commissioners (politicians). Indeed, rumour goes that the
   authors of the Bangemann Report (on the information society) used faxes (not
   e-mail) to exchange drafts and comments ;-)
   Some of the DG's have their own Internet domain as well, but their users
   should still be reachable under the scheme described above.
   As of March 1995, the European Commission has set up its own general
   WorldWideWeb-server under the name of +Europa;, in addition to some specific
   WWW servers that had already been developed before. It was announced as
       On 25 February 1995, during the +G7 Conference on the Information S
     ociety;, the European Commission introduced a new on-line database of
      information about the European Union, intended for the general publi
     c and known as +Europa;. The main function of Europa, which can be fo
     und on the World Wide Web with the URL[4]  is to p
     rovide information and guidance in clear everyday language on topics
     of interest to consumers within the single market. However, it also c
     ontains basic information about the European Institutions, and a coll
     ection of some of the more grotesque so-called +euro-myths; put about
      by eurosceptics, explaining how they arose and the reality behind th
     em. Initially, Europa will be available in English only, but the EC p
     lans to provide versions in other EU languages in due course.
                                Edited by Roland Siebelink & Bart Schelfhout[5]
                                           corrections and suggestions welcome.
   [Go to Table of Contents][6]

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