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Subject: European Union Basics (FAQ), Part4/8

This article was archived around: 22 May 2006 04:35:55 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: european-union/basics
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Archive-name: european-union/basics/part4 Posting-Frequency: once every three weeks URL: http://eubasics.allmansland.com/commission.html
+ NB READERS OF THIS TEXT VERSION: + The original and most recent version of this file is always available + on the world-wide web. If you have Web access, please consider viewing + it there at the URL mentioned above. EU Basics FAQ: The European Commission [QUESTIONSABOUTEU] 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 Cooperatives DG XXIV Consumer Policy Services Secretariat-General of the Commission Forward Studies Unit Joint Research Centre Inspectorate-General 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 stronger. 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? EMAIL CONNECTIVITY 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 <given_name_initial.surname@mhsg.cec.be>. The example of <J.Santer@mhsg.cec.be> 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. DATABASES AND INFOSYSTEMS 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 follows: 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 http://www.cec.lu/[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] *** References from this document *** [1] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/general.html#merger [2] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr [3] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/councils.html#eu-council [4] http://www.cec.lu/ [5] mailto:eubasics@allmansland.com [6] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/index.html