The Commission
0 On DEsite
1 General
2 Pillar structure
3 Bodies
  • European Parliament
  • Council
  • The Commission
  • The Court of Justice
  • Court of Auditors 
  • Economic and Social Committee
  • Committee of the Regions
  • Central Bank
  • Coreper
  • Miscellaneous
  • 4 Decision-making
    5 Lobby groups
    6 Case histories
    7 Information and publications


    The Commission is based on Articles 211-219 EC.


    The Commission has its origins in Articles 211-219 EC and consists of 20 members (Art. 213 EC). The same article stipulates that at least one and at most two Commissioners per Member State hold a seat in the Commission. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom have two Commission members at present, and the other Member States have one.

    When the twelve candidate countries with which negotiations are being carried on enter the Union, the present system, if maintained, would result in a Commission consisting of 33 members. This is almost four times the original number. By virtue of the Treaty of Nice, the Commission will, as from 2005, consist of one Commission member per Member State. When the Union consists of 27 Member States, the number of Commission members will be reduced. At that moment, the Council will have to decide by unanimity of votes about the right number of members (which will in any case have to be lower than 27); the nationality of the members of the Commission will at that moment depend on a turn-taking system among the members based on equality.

    After Nice, the Council, meeting in the composition of the Heads of State or Government, nominates with a qualified majority the person that it intends to appoint president of the Commission. The European Parliament must approve this nomination. Subsequently, the Council, in agreement with the nominated president, decides on the list of other members of the Commission that have been nominated by the Member States. Then the Parliament votes on the approval of the entire Commission. Only after this approval the Commission can be appointed by the Council with a qualified majority.

    Members of the Commission are entirely independent. The Treaty stipulates expressly that the Member States may not give commission members any instructions. Nor may Commissioners accept any additional functions that are incompatible with the position, whether honorary or paid, during their five-year term of office.

    The Commission consists of Directorates-General, which each manages a particular policy area. The Commission members have political responsibility for one or more Directorates-General. In addition, each commissioner has a cabinet consisting of six personal assistants.

    The Commission employs a total of approximately 16,000 officials supervised by a Secretary-General. The seat of the Commission is in Brussels.

    In the context of the Treaty of Nice, it was also decided to enlarge the president´s powers. This measure is indispensable to warrant the coherence on an extended board. The Commission´s president, for example, will decide on the distribution of the portfolios and will be able to rearrange these powers in the course of the mandate. The president will also have the right to request a member of the Commission to resign, after this measure has been approved by the board.


    The Commission has an important task in the decision-making process as this institution has a virtually exclusive right of initiative in the European Community.

    The Commission also has its own co-decision authority in certain policy areas, such as competition law. Finally, the Commission can formulate recommendations or deliver opinions (Art. 211 EC). The Council has also delegated certain executive powers to the Commission. In these cases, the Commission need not first submit proposals to the Council (and possibly Parliament).

    The Commission also sees to it that the Member States implement legislation correctly. The Commission itself takes steps if such is not the case and can also call in the Court of Justice.

    Internal decision-making

    Commission decisions must be taken with a majority vote (Art. 219 EC). On the basis of the principle of collegiality, the decisions count as decisions of the college of Commissioners in its entirety and not as decisions of individual members. This is also the case when one commissioner is authorised to take decisions on behalf of the entire Commission.


    Owing to the extensive range of duties the European Commission has, this body produces a great many documents. Many publications can be found via the Internet page of the Commission itself. The Register of Commission Documents provides references to documents since 1 January 2001. The register contains primarily legislative documents, but coverage gradually will be extended to other categories of documents. In addition, documents are published on the web sites of the individual Directorates-General. The pages of the Directorates-General are a particularly good source for policy documents that have not been included in the regular databases. Good examples are the DG Competition and the DG Internal Market, which, for years now, have made most policy documents accessible on the Internet.

    Below is a list of the most important publications of the Commission.

    Since 1968, the Secretariat-General of the Commission has annually published a survey of the activities of the European Union. This General Report on the Activities of the European Union contains many references to documents. The report is published as a book, but since 1997, the full texts can also be found on the Internet site of the Commission.

    COM documents are working documents of the European Commission. These working documents are prepared by the individual Directorates-General. Various kinds of COM documents can be distinguished:

    • Proposals for legislation, consisting of the text of a proposal with an explanatory statement.
    • Policy documents, the so-called Green Papers and White Papers.
      Green Papers are documents on a policy theme that are especially meant to involve interested organisations and parties in the debate. In some cases, they result in legislation.
      White Papers are documents with proposals for Community measures in a number of policy areas. They often follow Green Papers. White Papers contain concrete proposals in which the debate has been assimilated.
    • Reports and Accounts.
      The Commission may be asked, by the European Parliament, for instance, to report on the implementation of policy. In addition, reports by experts, for example, may be published as COM Documents.

    COM documents can be found in various places. There is a paper edition that is also available on microfiche. It is usually necessary to use these editions for older documents. The printed version is generally available in one of the European Documentation Centres. Recent texts can be found via EURLEX and via the Internet pages of the individual Directorates-General. English-language Green Papers and White Papers can be retrieved via the Internet sites of the Commission.

    SEC documents are internal working documents of the Commission that are not generally made public. It is possible to request such an internal document in writing to the Secretariat-General of the Commission. Further information on retrieving documents can be found via the Access to Commission documents. In line with the policy of making information more accessible, SEC documents are sometimes subsequently also published as COM documents.

    Topical information on the activities and the policy of the Commission can be found in the press releases. Summaries of the most important can be found via Midday Express, while full texts can be found via the Rapid database.