The Brussels based European Commission is the executive body of the EU, responsible for:
- Proposing legislation to the European Parliament and Council. The Commission is the only EU institution with the power to initiate legislation;
- Managing and implementing EU Policies and supervising the budget. Among many other policies, the Commission oversees the operation of the Common Fisheries Policy and its financial instrument the European Fisheries Fund;
- Ensuring EU law is upheld by the Member States. In its role as “Guardian of the Treaties” it has the power to initiate legal proceedings against Member States who do not fulfil their obligations. If initial infringement proceedings, such as letters to the Member States, do not work – the Commission can take a country to the Court of Justice, who can impose penalties;
- Representing the EU on a global level. The Commission can represent the EU in international fora such as the World Trade Organisation and can also negotiate agreements with third countries, such as negotiating fishing rights.
There are 27 Commissioners (known as the College), nominated by their Member State for five years, each responsible for one or more EU policy areas. Each Commissioner has a Cabinet of personally selected staff including a spokesperson for the media.
The Commissioners are supported by Commission staff, organised into Directorate Generals (DGs), each working on designated policy areas. They are staffed by civil servants and each DG is headed by a Director General, the equivalent to a top civil servant in a government ministry, who reports to the Commissioner in that policy area.
When developing a new policy proposal, the relevant DG will prepare a draft, which is then discussed and if necessary amended with other concerned DGs – this process is called the Inter-service Consultation. Once finalised the College of Commissioners will adopt the proposal at one of its weekly meetings. The Official Commission proposal will then be examined by the EP and Council according to procedures which vary in relation to the policy area.