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Rules of Procedure of the European Commission
The European Commission is an independent institution made up of commissioners - who act collectively - and officials, whose mission it is to represent and uphold the interests of the European Union (EU). It is the body that proposes legislation, implements EU policies and the budget, and makes sure the Treaties are properly applied; it shares executive powers with the Council of the EU.
Article 249 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) requires the Commission to adopt its own Rules of Procedure so as to ensure that both it and its departments operate smoothly.
The rules consist of 29 articles and set out the institution's administrative organisation, its internal decision-making procedure, provisions for security and access to legal documents. The Commission lays down the associated implementing rules for the procedures and may also adopt supplementary measures relating to its functioning.
ORGANISATION OF THE COMMISSION
First of all, it is important to note that the term "Commission" is used in two senses. Firstly, it refers to the Members of the Commission i.e. the team of men and women appointed by the Member States and Parliament to run the institution and take its decisions (the "College" of Commissioners). Secondly, it refers to the institution itself and to its staff, who are organised into departments.
The Commission or the "College" of Commissioners
The Commission act as a "college" in compliance with the political guidelines laid down by its President. This principle of collective responsibility is based on the equal participation of the Members of the Commission in institutional decision-making. It means that decisions are deliberated collectively and that all Members have collective responsibility.
The Commission itself establishes its multi-annual strategic objectives, its political strategy and adopts its annual work programme in accordance with the President's political guidelines. The President plays a major role, representing the institution and assigning to each of the Commissioners special fields of activity (e.g. internal market, regional policy, transport, environment, agriculture, trade, etc.). These assignments may be changed at any time.
The President may also set up working groups for more specialised areas and designates the chairpersons (e.g. groups of commissioners for programming and communication, fundamental rights, the Lisbon strategy, etc.).
In order to prepare the ground for and implement action by the Commission as a College, the institution is structured in different departments called "directorates-general" (DGs). These DGs are divided into "directorates" and the directorates into "units". At the head of these different organisational levels, there is a director-general, a director and a head of unit respectively.
Like any institution, the Commission has a "Secretariat-General". At the head is the Secretary-General whose main duties involve assisting the President in preparing the ground for meetings and implementing decisions. He ensures the necessary coordination between departments. The Secretary-General is also responsible for official relations with the other institutions, subject to any powers that the Commission decides to exercise itself or to delegate to its Members or departments.
Preparation of decisions
Each Commissioner is specifically responsible for the preparation of Commission work in their own field. They have personal staff to assist them in their work and in preparing Commission decisions. They give their instructions to the relevant departments or directorates-general.
Before submitting a document to the other Commissioners, the department responsible must, in sufficient time, consult other departments which are associated or concerned. It must attach to its proposal, in the event of a disagreement, the differing views expressed by these departments. The Legal Service must be consulted on all proposals.
The Commission has four internal procedures enabling it to adopt proposals (directives, regulations or decisions), communications and management or administrative decisions. The Commission meeting is the "ultimate" procedure and is for major proposals requiring oral discussion within the Commission before they can be adopted.
Commission meetings or oral procedure
Meetings are convened by the President at least once a week (usually on Wednesdays) and whenever necessary. They are not public and discussions are confidential.
The Commissioners and the Secretary-General attend the meetings. In the absence of a Commissioner, their Chef de cabinet may sit in and, at the invitation of the President, state the views of the absent Member. The Commission may decide to hear any other person.
The President adopts the agenda of each Commission meeting.
Commissioners may propose the inclusion of an item on the agenda which they think requires discussion provided they notify the President and adhere to certain conditions laid down by the Commission. The Commission may, on a proposal from the President, discuss any question which is not on the agenda or for which the necessary working documents have been distributed late.
The Commission takes decisions on the basis of proposals from one or more of its Members. Decisions are normally adopted by consensus. However, a vote may be taken if any Member so requests. In this case, decisions are adopted if a majority of the Members vote in favour. The results of deliberations are recorded in the meeting's minutes.
The other procedures are largely intended to relieve the Commission of decisions concerning day-to-day management which do not require discussion.
Other decision-making procedures
- Written procedure: the agreement of the Members of the Commission to a proposal by one or more of its Members may be obtained by a written procedure. If none of the Members has made a reservation and maintained it up to the time limit set, the proposal stands adopted by the Commission.
- Empowerment: the Commission may empower one or more of its Members to take management or administrative measures on its behalf. It may also task one or more of its Members to adopt the definitive text of an act or a proposal to be presented to the other institutions once its content has been defined following discussion.
- Delegation and subdelegation: the Commission may delegate the adoption of management or administrative measures to the directors-general, acting on its behalf, who may subdelegate to their heads of department subject to very specific conditions.
Outcome and implementation of Commission decisions
18. Minutes are taken after each Commission meeting. They are submitted to the Commission for approval at a subsequent meeting and are authenticated by the signatures of the President and the Secretary-General.
As with the preparation of proceedings, each Member is specifically responsible for the implementation of Commission decisions in their own field. Members to whom an area of responsibility is assigned are assisted by their personal staff in giving instructions to the relevant departments and directorates-general.
The Secretary-General ensures that decision-making procedures are properly implemented. He ensures that Commission instruments are officially notified to those concerned and are published in the Official Journal of the EU and that they are transmitted to the other institutions.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Rules of Procedure of the Commission||
OJ L 308 of 8.12.2000
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Commission Decision 2010/138/EU||
OJ L 55 of 5.3.2010
|Commission Decision 2011/737/UE||
OJ L 296 of 15.11.2011