Brussels, 16 March 2004
Enlargement and institutional changes
1. The European Commission
Until 1 May 2004
The current system remains in place. The Commission is composed of 20 Commissioners from the EU-15. The preparations for the integration of 10 new Commissioners are the following:
16/17 March: the 10 new Commissioners from the acceding states are in Brussels for a first informal meeting with the Commission.
13/14/15 April: Hearings of the 10 new Commissioners by the European Parliament's Conference of the Presidents.
4 or 5 May: European Parliament vote on whether to approve the new Commission. Voting in early May implies that the MEPs from the new countries will be full members of the Parliament. Formally the 10 new Commissioners are appointed by the Council by qualified majority voting and by common accord with the President of the European Commission.
5 or 6 May: First official meeting of the College of 30 Commissioners in Strasburg.
1 May 2004 to 31 October 2004 transitional period
The Commission will be composed of 30 members: the 20 current Commissioners and 10 Commissioners from the accession countries. The Commissioners from the new Member States will be full members of the College and will participate in the decision-making process on exactly the same terms as Commissioners from the present Member States. While, during this short transitional period, the new Commissioners will not have specific portfolios, they will each be associated with the work of an existing Commissioner in order to ease their integration into the Commission's work.
1 November 2004 to 31 October 2009 Nice comes into force
A new Commission takes office on 1 November, date foreseen in the Accession Treaty. Under the rules of the Treaty of Nice this Commission will be composed of 25 Commissioners (one from each Member State). The procedure and time-table for appointing the next Commission are the following:
17/18 June: the European Council nominates the person it intends to be the next Commission President. This can happen by qualified majority (Treaty of Nice).
20 July: the new European Parliament following the June elections meets. It votes on whether to approve the nominee for Commission President.
Next, the Council draws up a list of 24 designated Commissioners in agreement with the nominee for President. This list contains one Commissioner per Member State. It is based on proposals by the Member States and can be drawn up by qualified majority. Once this has happened, the President-designate will propose portfolios for the candidate-Commissioners.
Early October is the proposed date for the hearings of the new Commissioners by the European Parliament. After the hearings, the President and the other Members of the Commission are subject as a body to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The EP cannot vote to exclude individual members. After a vote of approval in the European Parliament, the President and the other Members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Council. This can happen by qualified majority.
1 November 2004: New 25-member College takes up office.
The Treaty of Nice states that when the Union is composed of 27 Member States, the number of Commissioners should become inferior to the number of Member States. The Council must decide on the exact number by unanimity. The Members of the Commission shall be chosen according to a rotation system based on the principle of equality of all Member States. This amendment shall apply for the first Commission following accession of the 27th Member State. Hence, the Commission in office when accession of the 27th Member State happens could include 27 or more members for a transitional period.
The Inter-governmental Conference is currently discussing changes to the composition of the Commission. The system of first-rank and second-rank Commissioners as proposed by the Convention has been heavily criticised and has to be reviewed by the IGC.
2. The Council of the European Union
A table in annex I gives a comprehensive overview of the following situation:
Until 1 May 2004
The current system remains in place, with fifteen members, a total number of votes of 87 for a qualified majority of 62 votes. The 10 acceding countries participate in the work of the Council as observers.
1 May 2004 to 31 October 2004 transitional period
The 15 current Member States maintain their current number of votes. The 10 new Member States each obtain a number of votes coherent with the current system. This brings the total number of votes to 124. Qualified majority is 88 votes. All of this has been defined in the Accession Treaty.
1 November 2004 Treaty of Nice comes into force
The total number of votes is 321. Qualified majority is 232 votes emanating from a majority of Member States. An additional criterion has been introduced: any Member State may request verification that the Member States constituting a qualified majority represent at least 62% of the EU population.
Furthermore: Council Presidency
The current rotation order is maintained until the end of 2006. The next Presidencies after the Irish are: the Netherlands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Austria and Finland.
The IGC is currently discussing the idea of team presidencies. The draft Constitution also foresees a new system for the External Relations Council, which would be chaired by the European Minister for Foreign Affairs for a term of five years. For the European Council, it is proposed to create a more permanent chair to be elected by qualified majority for a term of two and a half years.
3. European Parliament
A table in annex II gives a comprehensive overview of the following situation:
From 1 May 2004 to June 2004
The Parliaments of the ten accession countries appoint their representatives in the European Parliament from 1 May until the first session of the newly elected EP, according to national procedure. The number of seats allocated to each new Member State by the Accession Treaty for this short transition period is exactly the same as the number of seats foreseen for each country for the 2004-2009 legislature.
After the June 2004 elections
Elections will be held on 10-13 June in all 25 Member States to elect a new Parliament. The total number of seats is set at 732. Each Member State receives the number of seats allocated to it by the Nice Treaty. For the 2004-2009 legislature, the number of seats within the total of 732 and foreseen by the Nice Treaty for Bulgaria and Romania are distributed pro rata among the 25 Member States according to the Nice Treaty.
The Council of the European Union
The European Parliament
(1)* Based on Eurostat 2001 population figures, except for Italy, UK, Cyprus, Estonia and Romania (2000 figures) and Greece (1999 figures)