The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The so-called College of Commissioners consists of 28 Commissioners, who are equal in the decision-making process. These include the President of the Commission, currently Jean-Claude Juncker, the first Vice President, and five further Vice Presidents, who lead the Commission.
The number 28 is not arbitrary, of course. Every EU country provides one Commissioner. However, the Commissioners are required to work for EU interests instead of national ones. The Commission also includes its staff, which supports the everyday work and is organized into different Directorates-General (DG). Each DG works on a specific policy area.
Etymologically, the origin of the term commission can be traced back partly to the French comissioune and comission, meaning request, order, requirement and to the Latin word commissiōn, meaning association, among other meanings.
Every five years a new College of Commissioners is appointed. The European Council proposes a candidate for the Comission’s President to the European Parliament. Each EU country suggests one Commissioner. Once elected by the EP, the President of the Commission selects the Vice Presidents and the Commissioners based on the EU countries’ suggestions. After the European Council has approved the list, the European Parliament votes on whether to accept the College. Then a qualified majority of the European Council appoints the new Commission.
The Commission decides collectively on the Commission’s strategies and policies. It is the only EU institution, which can initiate legislation. It is responsible for submitting new laws, funding and the annual budget to the European Parliament and the Council for discussion and adoption. It also enforces EU law, and represents the EU internationally.
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Written by Annemarie Menger – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master’s Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a teacher’s degree in the form of the First German State Examination for Elementary Education, a BA in Cultural Basic Skills and an additional degree in Global Systems and Intercultural Competence from the University of Würzburg.