Established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Commission has comprised 27 Commissioners since the accession of Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007. Its main function is to propose and implement Community policies adopted by the Council and the Parliament. It acts in the general interest of the Union with complete independence from national governments.
It enjoys a quasi-exclusive right of initiative in matters where the Community method applies (matters where Member States have transferred a significant part of their responsibilities, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the Customs Union, the internal market, the Euro, etc.), which drive European integration. The Lisbon Treaty “communitarises” issues relating to justice and internal affairs and assigns the Commission a right of initiative in these areas, which it shares with Member States.
As guardian of the Treaties, the Commission oversees the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It executes the budget and manages the programmes. It exercises coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Treaties. With the exception of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and other cases provided for in the Treaties, it ensures the Union’s external representation. It initiates the Union’s annual and multiannual programming with a view to achieving inter-institutional agreements.
The Commission is appointed for a five-year term by the Council acting by qualified majority in agreement with the Member States. It is subject to a vote of appointment by the European Parliament, to which it is answerable. The Commissioners are assisted by an administration made up of Directorates-General and specialised departments whose staff are divided mainly between Brussels and Luxembourg.