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EUROPA > Summaries of legislation > The Institutions of the Union


The Institutions of the Union

The European Commission

Commission President
Summary table


The Constitution confirms the functions of the Commission and supplements the existing rules concerning the number and origin of its members. The composition of the Commission, which was one of the thorniest issues examined by the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference (ICG), is based on the model suggested by the Treaty of Nice , with improvements. Otherwise there are no major changes, except of course for the creation of the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs, who will be one of the Commission Vice-Presidents.

The constitutional Treaty reaffirms (Article I-26) the essential functions of the Commission, namely the right of initiative (which becomes the general rule for the adoption of legislative acts, any exceptions, which are fewer in number than at present, requiring to be explicitly stipulated), the executive function, overseeing the application of Community law, execution of the budget and management of programmes. It also clarifies that the Commission represents the Union externally, except in the case of the common foreign and security policy, and that it initiates the Union's annual and multiannual programming. The Constitution also reaffirms the principle of collective accountability and of responsibility to the Parliament. Finally, Article I-26 stipulates that the Commission is always appointed for a five-year term of office and must be completely independent in carrying out its responsibilities.

Articles I-26, I-27 and I-28 contain the main innovations introduced by the Constitution as regards the composition of the Commission (Article I-26), the selection and role of the President (Art. I-27) and the functions assigned to the future Minister for Foreign Affairs (Article I-28).

The appointment, replacement and resignation procedures, as well as other provisions on the internal organisation of the College which remain the same as in corresponding articles of the EC Treaty, are contained in Articles III-347 to III-352 (Part III, Title VI on the functioning of the Union).

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The Constitution has abandoned the original formula proposed by the Convention members , which consisted of appointing Commissioners with voting rights and Commissioners without voting rights.

The constitutional Treaty has adopted a solution similar to the Nice solution, namely the maintenance of one Commissioner per Member State up to a certain size, and subsequent capping of the size of the College, with equal rotation between Member States

The text of the Constitution stipulates that the first Commission appointed under the provisions of the Constitution, i.e. the 2009 Commission, shall consist of one national of each Member State, including its President and the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs.

As from 2014 the Commission will be reduced in size and consist of a number of members corresponding to two-thirds of the number of Member States. The European Council, acting unanimously, may nevertheless decide to alter this number.

In the reduced-size Commission, the Commissioners will be selected according to a system of equal rotation between Member States. This system will be established by a European decision adopted unanimously by the European Council, and will be based on the following principles:

For the present Commission, the provisions that apply are those of the EC Treaty as amended by the Treaty of Nice and by the Treaty of Accession of the ten new Member States, i.e. one Commissioner per Member State. Apart from the new provisions adopted concerning the representation of Member States in an enlarged Commission, the Constitution introduces a major innovation with the creation of a post of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This latter will be required to carry out the tasks currently performed by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, "Mr CFSP", and by the Commissioner responsible for external relations . He or she will also take over some of the functions performed by the Council Presidency in the field of external relations. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will therefore be answerable both to the Commission and to the Council.

Appointed by the European Council, acting by qualified majority with the agreement of the President of the Commission, the Minister will conduct the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) together with the European security and defence policy (ESDP), as mandated by the Council. In this capacity, he or she will chair the "foreign affairs" formation at the Council of Ministers. He or she will also be responsible for external representation of the Union in the field of foreign and security policy.

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The Constitution does not propose any substantial changes to the way the President is appointed but clearly states that when the European Council proposes a candidate for the Presidency for election by the European Parliament the latter must take account of the results of the European elections. This change indirectly increases the influence of the Parliament and gives greater political significance to the European elections.

The remaining provisions concerning the Commission President are virtually identical to those contained in the EC Treaty.

The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, adopts the list of the other people whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They are selected on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States. The members of the Commission are chosen on the ground of their general competence, their independence and their European commitment (this latter criterion is new).

Finally, the President decides on the internal organisation of the Commission and may re-allocate the portfolios during the term of office. He or she appoints the Vice-Presidents, other than the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, from among the members of the Commission. The President may ask a member of the Commission to resign, although, unlike today, the College is not obliged to approve such a request.


Articles Subject Comments
I-26 Role, composition, collective accountability and responsibility to the Parliament Significant changes
I-27 President's role and powers of appointment -
I-28 Role of the Minister for Foreign Affairs New provisions
III-347 to III-352 Procedure for appointing Commissioners, replacement procedure, rules of procedure and other provisions -

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The fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Constitution.

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