The European Commission – I part
Today we are going to talk about the European Commission. This is a central body in the European construction, both for its originality and for its characteristics that are different with respect to any other international institutions. The European Commission is, first of all, an independent body. The main characteristic of the European Commission is that of being independent of national governments. The Council and Parliament must agree on the appointment of the Commission. The European Council suggests the name of the President of the Commission – as you know, in the last European Council the Portuguese Barroso was recommended – but the European Parliament must give its approval to the appointment of the president. Once the appointment has been accepted by the European Parliament, the President of the Commission can form his Commission, after having consulted with the Member States. The President, after gathering the indications of a shortlist coming from each member state, appoints the commissioner he believes more important. How many are the commissioners of the European Union? At the moment they are 25, that means a commissioner per each European country. But it has not been always like that: in fact, up to the enforcement of the Treaty of Nice, there were 2 commissioners for the big countries and one commissioner for the small ones, so that the Commission was made up of 20 commissioners when the Union was made up of 15 member states. Now, after the enforcement of the Treaty of Nice, the Commission has one commissioner per each member state. But the Treaty of Nice established that when the Commission reached the number of 27 member states, the number of commissioners would have been reduced, even if nobody knows to what extent. Anyway, let’s talk about the European Commission’s functions. The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union; this means that it must apply the laws and directives determined by the Council and Parliament, in case of a co-decision procedure. At the same time, the European Commission has also the power and duty to make sure that the Treaties are properly applied. In fact, the Commission is called “the guardian of the Treaties”, since its function is to ensure that the member states do not infringe neither the Treaties nor the norms; in case of infringement, the Commission intervenes, with a very strong power of initiative, since it has the possibility to open an infringement procedure for the states in question and in case these states do not respond to this infringement procedure and do not apply the Commission’s indications, the Commission can refer the States to the Court of Justice and the latter can sentence them by imposing them the application of certain norms and also charging them with the payment of certain fines (if the member state persists in the violation that has been claimed by the Commission). However, the main power of the European Commission is the right of initiative, that is: the Commission alone is responsible for drawing up proposals for a new European legislation, which it presents to Parliament and the Council. In case the Commission does not draw up any proposal, the legislative procedure cannot start. Therefore, it is a very important power and it is so safeguarded by the Treaties that if the Commission realizes that its proposal is noticeably modified by the Council, the Commission can withdraw it and so it can block the legislative procedure. In this way the Commission can avoid the Council to do something that does not comply with the objectives of the Treaty.
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