The European Commission

The European Commission. Copyright: bpaThe European Commission, the custodian of the treaties, is a politically independent organ, which represents the interests of the EU as a whole. It is entitled to initiate legislation, realises all decisions and monitors the timely translation of European Community law into the national legislation of member states. It also administers the EU budget and represents the EC in third countries and within international organisations. It is the "civil service" of the EU and answers to the Commissioners in Brussels. The Commission was intentionally made supranational, and is supposed to be independent of the national interests of individual governments.

The body responsible for decision-making is the College of Commissioners, which has consisted of 27 Commissioners including the President of the Commission since the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU in 2007. Every member state can currently propose one Commissioner. The Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid is currently Louis Michel, and the Commissioner for External Relations is Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Each Commissioner heads a Directorate-General of the Commission.

The College of Commissioners is appointed for a term of office of five years. The term of office of the current College of Commissioners, under President José Manuel Barroso, will come to an end on 31 October 2009.


Within the EU Commission, the Directorate-General for Development and the Directorate-General for External Relations are responsible for planning Community development cooperation and for analysing the needs of and prevailing political frameworks in partner countries.

Responsibilities are broken down along geographical lines. The Directorate-General for External Relations works with partner countries in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Southern Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Western Balkans, as well as with the Central Asian republics and Russia. The Directorate-General for Development is responsible for cooperation with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP states).

The Directorate-General for Development has another important task. It is responsible for defining the fundamental principles and guidelines governing Community assistance. Within this framework it coordinates the development cooperation of the Commission with that of member states and international organisations, including the World Bank, regional development banks, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations.

The more development policy is dovetailed with other policy fields, the more other Directorate-Generals become involved, such as the Directorate-General for Trade, since trade and development are closely linked in our globalised world.

When the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force, the Commission will be restructured. Parts of the Directorate-General for External Relations will become part of the European External Action Service, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be Vice-President of the Commission. Until 2014, the Commission, including its President and the High Representative, will consist of one national of each member state. As of 2014, the number of Commissioners is to be reduced to two-thirds of the number of member states.

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