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The Institutions of the Union

The European Commission

The Presidency
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To ensure operational effectiveness, the Treaty of Nice provided that, from 2005 onwards, the Commission would consist of one national from each State. When the Union comprises 27 Member States, the number of commissioners will be capped and a rotation system based on the principle of equality will be introduced under arrangements adopted unanimously by the Council. Following the signature of the accession treaty in April 2003, these provisions will apply as soon as the next Commission takes office in November 2004.

In its draft constitutional treaty, the Convention reaffirms (Article I-25) the essential functions of the Commission, namely the right of initiative (in particular as regards annual and multiannual programming), overseeing the application of Community law, execution of the budget, management of programmes, and external representation of the Union except in the case of the common foreign and security policy. It also stresses the principle of collective accountability and of responsibility to the Parliament.

Articles I-25, I-26 and I-27 contain the main innovations introduced by the Convention as regards the composition of the Commission (Article I-25), the selection and role of the President (Art. I-26) and, finally, the functions assigned to the future Minister for Foreign Affairs (Article I-27).

In Articles III-250 to III-257, the members of the Convention have set out 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.

The following major issues underlay the discussions within the Convention:

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From 1 November 2009 onwards, the College is to be restricted to 15 members: the President of the Commission, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (designated as Vice-President) and the 13 European commissioners (with voting rights).

Apart from these 13 commissioners, other commissioners without voting rights will be appointed. Each Member State will be represented by a national who will either be a European commissioner (limited to 13 posts) or a commissioner without voting rights.

Equal rotation (as regards sequence and time spent in office) between the two groups of commissioners will follow a system laid down in a European Council decision based on the principles set out in the protocol on enlargement annexed to the Treaty of Nice.

A new function has been envisaged by the members of the Convention: that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who will 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. 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, 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 Convention does not propose changing 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 , it 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 draft treaty increases the President's powers of appointment; he or she will now appoint the European commissioners from a list of three persons (including at least one woman) drawn up by each Member State.


Articles Subject Comments
I-25 Role, composition, collective accountability and responsibility to the Parliament Significant changes
I-26 President's role and powers of appointment
I-27 Role of the Minister for Foreign Affairs New provisions
III-250 to III-257 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 Convention.

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