What is the President's role? Who appoints him? For how long does his term last?
Find the answers to these questions and more below.
Who appoints the President of the Commission?
The President of the Commission is appointed by the governments of the Member States, and then approved by the European Parliament. This dual legitimacy gives the President political authority, which he exercises in a variety of ways.
What are the tasks of the President?
The President must try to provide forward movement for the European Union and to give a sense of direction both to his fellow Commissioners and, more broadly, to the Commission as a whole. This role was strengthened by the Amsterdam Treaty: 'The Commission shall work under the political guidance of its President' (Article 217). He calls and chairs meetings of the Members of the Commission, and can assign responsibility for specific activities to them or set up working groups. Lastly, he represents the Commission. In this capacity, he takes part in meetings of the European Council and of the Group of seven leading industrialised countries and Russia (G8), as well as in the major debates of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the European Union. So, although the work of the Commission is based on the principle of collective responsibility, the President is much more than a first among equals.
How long does the President's term last?
The President of the Commission serves a five-year term. The Maastricht Treaty brought the terms of office of the European Parliament and the Commission into close alignment: Colleges serve a five-year term and take up office six months after European Parliament elections, which are held on a fixed basis in the June of years ending in four and nine.
How are the other Members of the Commission appointed?
The President appoints his fellow Commissioners in agreement with the governments of the Member States. He entrusts each of them with particular policy responsibilities. After a series of individual hearings before Parliamentary committees, the candidate-Commissioners are subject as a body to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The President and the other Members of the Commission are then appointed by the Council.
How many Commissioners are there?
Since the enlargement of the European Union on 1 January 2007, the College counts 27 Commissioners. They are each in charge of particular policy areas and meet collectively as the College of Commissioners. Before the last enlargement of the EU, the larger countries had two Commissioners and the remaining countries each had one. For practical reasons, each country now has only one Commissioner.
Can the President ask a Commissioner to resign?
Yes. The Treaty of Nice gives the President, among other things, the power to reallocate responsibilities to Members of the Commission during its term of office or to ask them to resign.
What is the task of the Secretariat General?
The Secretariat General is responsible for the practical organisation of the Commission's work and of its relations with the other institutions, as well as for coordination between the various Commission departments.