Principal roles in law
The Commission proposes and implements laws which are in keeping with the objectives of the EU treaties. It encourages input from business and citizens in the law-making process and ensures laws are correctly implemented, evaluated and updated when needed.
Areas where the EU can pass laws
Every action taken by the EU is founded on the treaties that have been approved democratically by its members. The treaties are binding agreements between EU countries and set out EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its members. Treaties are the starting point for EU law.
The EU can only act in those areas where its member countries have authorised it to do so, via the EU treaties. The treaties specify who can pass laws in what areas: the EU, national governments or both.
The European Commission is responsible for planning, preparing and proposing new European laws. It has the right to do this on its own initiative. The laws it proposes must defend the interests of the Union and its citizens as a whole. The Commission submits a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, who must agree on the text for it to become EU law.
Citizens, business, civil society, public authorities or any other stakeholder can have their say in the EU's law-making process. This is referred to as better regulation.
Based on evidence and the views of citizens and stakeholders, the Commission proposes new laws.
Making rules for implementation
Once an EU law is passed, the Council of the European Union or European Parliament can authorise the Commission to adopt two types of non-legislative acts to ensure that laws are implemented properly (implementing acts) or updated if necessary to reflect developments in a particular sector (delegated acts).
Ensuring correct implementation
The Commission is responsible for monitoring whether EU laws are applied correctly and on time. In this role, the Commission is referred to as the 'guardian of the treaties'.
The Commission will take steps if an EU country does not fully incorporate a directive into its national law by the set deadline or has not applied EU law correctly.
If national authorities fail to implement EU laws, the Commission may start formal infringement proceedings against the country in question.
Evaluating and updating laws
The Commission regularly evaluates whether EU laws have delivered the desired changes to European business and citizens.
The findings of an evaluation help the Commission to decide whether EU actions should be continued or changed.
Along with evaluations and fitness checks (assessing several related actions), the Commission's REFIT programme help make existing EU laws simpler and less costly to apply.
As part of its better regulation agenda, anyone can provide feedback on plans for evaluations and fitness checks and take part in public consultations on ongoing evaluations.