The European Union has become a victim of its own success. Institutional arrangements designed for the original Communities with six Member States have had to accommodate 27 members and the prospect of more entrants. Successive Treaty reforms, including the Lisbon Treaty, have tried to address the needs of an enlarged Union.
The Member States have, reluctantly, agreed to limit the future size of the Commission, but they have not been able to renounce the principle of national representation. Consequently, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces a system of equal rotation from 2014, which means that the next Commission, from 2009, is going to have one representative from each Member State.
Articles 211 to 219 of the existing Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC; latest consolidated version OJ 29.12.2006, C 321 E) deal with the Commission.
The Convention proposed two Articles on the Commission, I-25 on the European Commission and I-26 on its President.
In the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (OJ 16.12.2004, C 310) the Member States signed on to Article I-26 The European Commission and Article I-27 The President of the European Commission.
I decided not to compare the various stages from the existing Treaties to the Lisbon Treaty. A few general comments from an EU citizen:
The European Commission shall promote the general interest of the Union. Subject to democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament, the Commission’s mission is, or should be, near the interests of the citizens of the Union.
On the whole, the Commission’s powers to propose legislation and to act as guardian of the Treaties, is in the interests of the citizens of the EU.
The June 2009 elections to the European Parliament are going to become more interesting if the European political parties nominate their candidates for the office of President of the Commission. But the rest of the Commission is still going to consist of Member State appointees.
A long term view would be to create a democratically accountable executive based on the election results. This would call for further reforms making clearer distinctions between political leadership (norms, resources, objectives) and more apolitical regulatory and management functions (delegated to various bodies).
But would politically responsible members of the Commission be less conscious of the general interest or less independent than the present ones, who are more or less directly appointed by the Member States?
The new ‘Commission’ would shoulder the executive powers of the Union, including foreign, security and defence policy. Democratic scrutiny would be exercised by a European Parliament with a directly elected first chamber representing the citizens and a second chamber representing the Member States.
The Lisbon Treaty is a halfway house between democratic accountability and Member States’ representation concerning the European Commission.
The Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007, C 306) inserts an Article 9d into the Treaty on European Union (TEU).
1. The Commission shall promote the general interest of the Union and take appropriate initiatives to that end. It shall ensure the application of the Treaties, and of measures adopted by the institutions pursuant to them. It shall oversee the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It shall execute the budget and manage programmes. It shall exercise coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Treaties. With the exception of the common foreign and security policy, and other cases provided for in the Treaties, it shall ensure the Union's external representation. It shall initiate the Union's annual and multiannual programming with a view to achieving interinstitutional agreements.
2. Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. Other acts shall be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal where the Treaties so provide.
3. The Commission's term of office shall be five years.
The members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt.
In carrying out its responsibilities, the Commission shall be completely independent. Without prejudice to Article 9 E(2), the members of the Commission shall neither seek nor take instructions from any Government or other institution, body, office or entity. They shall refrain from any action incompatible with their duties or the performance of their tasks.
4. The Commission appointed between the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and 31 October 2014 shall consist of one national of each Member State, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who shall be one of its Vice-Presidents.
5. As from 1 November 2014, the Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding to two thirds of the number of Member States, unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this number.
The members of the Commission shall be chosen from among the nationals of the Member States on the basis of a system of strictly equal rotation between the Member States, reflecting the demographic and geographical range of all the Member States. This system shall be established unanimously by the European Council in accordance with Article 211a of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
6. The President of the Commission shall:
(a) lay down guidelines within which the Commission is to work;
(b) decide on the internal organisation of the Commission, ensuring that it acts consistently, efficiently and as a collegiate body;
(c) appoint Vice-Presidents, other than the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, from among the members of the Commission.
A member of the Commission shall resign if the President so requests. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall resign, in accordance with the procedure set out in Article 9 E(1), if the President so requests.
7. Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.
The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3, second subparagraph, and paragraph 5, second subparagraph.
The President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the other members of the Commission shall be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament. On the basis of this consent the Commission shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.
8. The Commission, as a body, shall be responsible to the European Parliament. In accordance with Article 201 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European Parliament may vote on a motion of censure of the Commission. If such a motion is carried, the members of the Commission shall resign as a body and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall resign from the duties that he carries out in the Commission.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is next.