European Commission

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Date:October 1, 2010

Staff member of the Directorate-General
Koninginnegracht 23F, 2535RS The Hague

The Honorable Jan Peter Balkenende
Minister President
Herengracht 12-D, 2717DC Middelburg

Dear Minister President,

As a staff member of the Directorate-General of the European Commission I have been appointed to describe to you the composition and the powers of the Commission in the European Union. In the following paragraph I will describe the body of the Commission divided in three pillars: First you have the College of the Commissioners, then the Directorate-General (DGs) and lastly the cabinets. In the Third paragraph I will briefly describe the powers of the Commission and in the last paragraph I will conclude with an opinion on the question, as to how far I consider the European Commission to have “a vocation to further the interests of the community as a whole”.

The Commission consists of twenty-seven Commissioners, one for each Member State including the President of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security. The Commissioners are responsible for the work of the commission stated in Art. 17 of the TEU, and are therefore not allowed to have any other duties during their period of office that could bring about any conflict of interest. If a Commissioner fails to do so, the Court of Justice may retire the member concerned on application of the Commission or the Council acting on a simple majority. The exception to this rule is, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who is a member of the Commission responsible for the conduct of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy and its security and defense policy but also takes part in the work of the EC, presides over the Foreign affairs Council and carries out mandates of the Council. The High representative is appointed by QMV with agreement of the President of the Commission, and may be dismissed the same way. The president of the Commission is proposed to the European Parliament by the European Council acting by a qualified majority, and is elected in the European Parliament. The president is the most powerful Commissioner and has several important roles: he/she adopts the list of the persons whom it proposes to appoint as members of the Commission, lays the guidelines in which the Commission is to work, decides the internal organization of the commission making sure it works as a body, appoints the Vice-Presidents from among the members of the Commission (other than the High Representative), he can resign Commissioners since they are individually responsible to him. Finally the President has an important role as representative. He represents the Commission at meetings involving the heads of Government and must account to other institutions when there is questioning of the general conduct of the institution or a particular issue raises broader questions. In the current Commission, there are forty Directorates-General (DGs) divided into four groups: policies, external relations, general services and internal services. The majority of the Commission employees work for the DGs. DGs in the Commission are compared to Ministers in a national government. Even though DGs’ work for Commissioners their responsibilities are to the Commission. The work inside the DG focuses on the development of programmes, administration of Community funding and bringing different public and private actors together. You can see the Cabinet as being between the College of Commissioners, representing the political part of the Commission, and the DGs representing the administrative part of the Commission. A Cabinet is composed of seven to eight officials and is appointed by the President. Each Cabinet is the office of a Commissioner and is a line between Commissioners and DGs allowing cooperation between them and helping Commissioner with formulating priorities and policies. They keep...
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