European Commission

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

European Commission

European Commission (EC), institution of the European Union (EU) invested with executive powers; it also is the main EU institution that initiates legislation. Located in Brussels, Belgium, it was founded in 1967 when the three treaty organizations comprising what was then the European Community were officially merged; previously, each organization was governed by a separate commission. The commission is composed of 27 members—one from each EU nation, but under the Lisbon Treaty (ratified 2009) its membership will be reduced beginning in 2014. Members are appointed by European Council and serve four-year terms; the commission membership must be approved by the European Parliament. One member serves as president and six serve as vice presidents. A large administrative staff, numbering some 25,000, is divided among many committees and administrative agencies. The commission implements the provisions of the EU's governing treaties and carries out legislation enacted by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.

In keeping with the objective of the founding treaties, the commission initiates EU policy on the economy in particular but, increasingly, also on environmental and foreign and security affairs. The legislation it proposes is subject to amendment and approval by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. It was under the presidency of Jacques Delors (1985–95) that the commission put forward the Single European Act (1987) and the Treaty of European Union (1992; also known as the Maastricht Treaty), both of which provided for a significant expansion of the EU's powers. In 1995, Jacques Santer of Belgium became president of the commission. The entire commission resigned in 1999 amid accusations of financial mismanagement, corruption, fraud, and nepotism, and a new set of commissioners, with Romano Prodi of Italy as president, was appointed later the same year. In 2004, José Manuel Barroso succeeded Prodi as president.

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