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European Commissioner

European Union
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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government
of the European Union

A European Commissioner is a member of the 28-member European Commission. Each Member within the Commission holds a specific portfolio, and the Commission is led by the President of the European Commission. In simple terms they are the equivalent of national ministers.

Appointment

Each Commissioner is first nominated by their member state in consultation with the Commission President, although the President holds little practical power to force a change in candidate. The more capable the candidate is, the more likely the Commission President will assign them a powerful portfolio, the distribution of which is entirely at his discretion. The President's team is then subject to hearings at the European Parliament which will question them and then vote on their suitability as a whole. If members of the team are found to be inappropriate, the President must then reshuffle the team or request a new candidate from the member state or risk the whole Commission being voted down. As Parliament cannot vote against individual Commissioners there is usually a compromise whereby the worst candidates are removed but minor objections are put aside so the Commission can take office. Once the team is approved by parliament, it is formally put into office by the European Council (TEU Article 17:7).

It should be noted however that although Members of the Commission are allocated between member-states they do not represent their states; instead they are supposed to act in European interests. Normally a member-state will nominate someone of the same political party as that which forms the government of the day. There are exceptions such as Member of the Commission Burke (of Fine Gael) was nominated by Taoiseach Haughey (of Fianna Fáil), or where larger states had two seats, they often went to the two major parties such as in the United Kingdom.

Partly due to the member-state selection procedure, only 9 of the current 28 Members are women and no ethnic minorities have ever served on a Commission to date. Peter Mandelson (2004 to October 2008)[1] was the first openly gay Commissioner. The first female Commissioners were Christiane Scrivener and Vasso Papandreou in the 1989 Delors Commission.

European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek proposed in 2010 that Commissioners be directly elected, by member states placing their candidate at the top of their voting lists in European elections. That would give them individually, and the body as a whole, a democratic mandate.[2]

Oath

Each Member is required to take an oath before the Court of Justice of the European Union, officially the Solemn Declaration before the Court of Justice of the European Union. As of December 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights has gained legal force and Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed that Commissioners should swear to uphold it also. The second Barroso Commission went to the Court of Justice on 3 May 2010 for the first such oath alongside their usual oath.[3] The oath taken by the members of the current Barroso Commission is below;[4]

History

Until 2004, the larger member states (Spain upwards) received two Commissioners and the smaller states received one. As the size of the body was increasing with enlargement, the larger states lost their second commissioner after the 2004 enlargement with the new Barroso Commission being appointed under the Treaty of Nice.

Nice also specified that once the number of members reached 27 then the number of Commissioners should be reduced to "less than the number of Member States". The exact number of Commissioners would have to be decided by a unanimous vote of the European Council and membership will rotate equally between member states. Following the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in January 2007, this clause took effect for the following commission (appointed after the 2009 European elections).[5]

The failed European Constitution first mandated that the number of Commissioners should equal two-thirds of the member states. This could be changed by a vote in the European Council, in case the number was still too high in the future. The Constitution failed ratification but this change was brought in with the Treaty of Lisbon. However, as Lisbon was being ratified the Irish electorate voted against it with one reason being the fear of losing a Commissioner. The Irish then voted again, in favour for the treaty on a number of conditions; one being that they kept their commissioner.

Thus it is proposed that the member state who doesn't get a Commissioner, will get the post of High Representative, the so-called 26+1 formula.[6] Other ideas that have been floated to deal with the high number of commissioners has been the creation of junior members for smaller states,[7] the creation of "super-commissioners".[8]

Another change Lisbon brought, as hinted above, was the creation of the role of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy by merging the post of European Commissioner for External Relations with the Council's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The new more powerful High Representative became ex-officio Vice-President of the Commission and would chair the Council of the European Union when Foreign Ministers were meeting.[9][10]

Accountability

In addition to its role in approving a new Commission, the European Parliament has the power at any time to force the entire Commission to resign through a vote of no confidence. This requires a vote that makes up at least two-thirds of those voting and a majority of the total membership of the Parliament. While it has never used this power, it threatened to use it against the Commission headed by Jacques Santer in 1999 over allegations of corruption. In response, the Santer Commission resigned en masse of its own accord, the only time a Commission has done so.

Salaries

Commissioner's basic monthly salaries are fixed at 112.5% of the top civil service grade. This works out at €19,909.89.[11][12] The President is paid at 138% (€24,422.80), Vice-Presidents at 125% (€22,122.10)[11] and the High Representative at 130% €23,006.98.[13] There are further allowances on top of this figure.[11]

Portfolios

See Juncker Commission for current office holders.

The make up and distribution of portfolios are determined by the Commission President and do not always correspond with the Commission's departments (Directorates-General). While some have been fairly consistent in make up between each Commission, some have only just been created or are paired with others. With a record number of Members in 2007, the portfolios have become very thin even though the responsibilities of the commission have increased.[14]

Nominee Portrait Portfolio State Party
Juncker, Jean-ClaudeJean-Claude Juncker 70px President 23x15px Luxembourg EPP
National: CSV
Timmermans, FransFrans Timmermans 70px First Vice President 23x15px Netherlands PES
National: PvdA
Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights
Mogherini, FedericaFederica Mogherini 70px Vice President 23x15px Italy PES
National: PD
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Georgieva, KristalinaKristalina Georgieva Vice President 23x15px Bulgaria EPP
National: GERB
Budget and Human Resources
Šefčovič, MarošMaroš Šefčovič 70px Vice President 23x15px Slovakia PES
National: Smer-SD
Energy Union
Katainen, JyrkiJyrki Katainen 70px Vice President 23x15px Finland EPP
National: KOK
Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness
Dombrovskis, ValdisValdis Dombrovskis 70px Vice President 23x15px Latvia EPP
National: Unity
Euro and Social Dialogue
Ansip, AndrusAndrus Ansip 70px Vice President 23x15px Estonia ALDE
National: Reform
Digital Single Market
Jourová, VěraVěra Jourová 70px Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality 23x15px Czech Republic ALDE
National: ANO
Oettinger, GüntherGünther Oettinger 70px Digital Economy and Society 23x15px Germany EPP
National: CDU
Moscovici, PierrePierre Moscovici 70px Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs 23x15px France PES
National: PS
Thyssen, MarianneMarianne Thyssen 70px Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility 23x15px Belgium EPP
National: CD&V
Crețu, CorinaCorina Crețu 77x77px Regional Policy 23x15px Romania PES
National: PSD
Hahn, JohannesJohannes Hahn 70px European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations 23x15px Austria EPP
National: ÖVP
Avramopoulos, DimitrisDimitris Avramopoulos 70px Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship 23x15px Greece EPP
National: ND
Andriukaitis, VytenisVytenis Andriukaitis 70px Health and Food Safety 23x15px Lithuania PES
National: SDP
Hill, JonathanJonathan Hill 70px Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union 23x15px United Kingdom AECR
National: Conservative
Bieńkowska, ElżbietaElżbieta Bieńkowska 70px Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs 23x15px Poland EPP
National: PO
Cañete, Miguel AriasMiguel Arias Cañete 70px Climate Action and Energy 23x15px Spain EPP
National: PP
Mimica, NevenNeven Mimica 70px International Cooperation and Development 23x15px Croatia PES
National: SDP
Vestager, MargretheMargrethe Vestager 70px Competition 23x15px Denmark ALDE
National: RV
Bulc, VioletaVioleta Bulc 70px Transport 23x15px Slovenia ALDE
National: SMC
Malmström, CeciliaCecilia Malmström 70px Trade 23x15px Sweden ALDE
National: FP
Vella, KarmenuKarmenu Vella 70px Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries 23x15px Malta PES
National: PL
Navracsics, TiborTibor Navracsics 70px Education, Culture, Youth and Sport 23x15px Hungary EPP
National: Fidesz
Moedas, CarlosCarlos Moedas Research, Science and Innovation 23x15px Portugal EPP
National: PSD
Hogan, PhilPhil Hogan 70px Agriculture and Rural Development
  1. REDIRECT Template:Country data Republic of Ireland Ireland
EPP
National: FG
Stylianides, ChristosChristos Stylianides 70px Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management 23x15px Cyprus EPP
National: DISY

Civil service

A Commissioner can come under a great deal of influence from the staff under their control. The European Civil Service is permanent whereas a Commissioner is in office usually for just five years. Hence it is the service which know the workings of the Commission and have longer term interests. Strong leadership from a Commissioner, who knows the workings of their portfolio, can overcome the power of the service. An example would be Pascal Lamy, however the best people are usually kept by their national governments leading to less solid candidates getting the job.[15]

Politicisation

File:Margot Wallström.jpg
Margot Wallström has said that the EU has to get more political and controversial.

Commissioners are also required to remain above national politics while exercising their duties in the Commission to maintain independence. However that requirement has slowly been eroded as the institution has become more politicised. During the Prodi Commission, Anna Diamantopoulou (Employment and Social Affairs) took leave from the Commission to participate in the 2004 Greek elections and resigned when she won a seat despite her party losing. Romano Prodi campaigned in the 2001 Italian elections while still president.[16]

Recently, Louis Michel (Development & Humanitarian Aid) announced that he would go on unpaid leave to take part in the 2007 Belgian elections.[17] Although he positioned himself so as not to be elected, the European Parliament's development committee asked the Parliament's legal service to assess if his participation violated the treaties.[18] Michel claimed that politicisation of this manner is part of reconnecting the Union with its citizens. The Commission revised its code of conduct for Commissioners allowing them to "be active members of political parties or trade unions." To participate in an election campaign they are required to "withdraw from the work of the Commission for the duration of the campaign."

This does throw their independence in doubt, where a politician leaves their national scene for one or two terms and returns to it for a new job.[19] Most in essence owe their positions to nomination and support from national party leaders and parties they have been aligned to; usually seeking to return to the party-political fray.[20]

Politicisation has even gone so far as commissioners backing national candidates, with Neelie Kroes (Competition) backing Angela Merkel in the 2005 German elections and Margot Wallström (Institutional Relations & Communication Strategy) backing Ségolène Royal in the 2007 French elections.[16] Wallström defended this claiming that the EU has to get more political and controversial as being a vital role in communicating the Commission.[21] Wallström has been notable for engaging in debate and politics, she was the first commissioner to start her own blog.

However their political nature can also cause problems in their habit of leaving the job early in the final years of the Commission to take up new national posts. In seeking to secure their post-Commission job, they can undermine the work of the Commission.[22] Following elections in Cyprus, Commissioner Kyprianou left to become Cypriot Foreign Minister.[23] Likewise, Commissioner Frattini left to do the same following elections in Italy.[24] During the previous Prodi Commission, Pedro Solbes left to become the Spanish finance minister, Michel Barnier left to become French foreign minister, Erkki Liikanen left to become head of a Helsinki bank and Anna Diamantopoulou also resigned early. Even President Prodi started campaigning in the Italian elections before his term as head of the Commission was over.[22]

Appointment to the Commission has the effect of removing a political figure from a country for a period of years, and this has been compared to the ancient Athenian practice of ostracism.[25]

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ [1] BBC: 'Proud' Mandelson back in [UK] cabinet
  2. ^ Mahony, Honor (23 March 2010) EP president suggests election of future EU commissioners, EU Observer
  3. ^ Reding says member states 'must show' they're applying EU charter
  4. ^ [2] EU commission: Wording of the oath.
  5. ^ See the attached Protocol, Article 4
  6. ^ Smyth, Jamie (5 September 2009). "Rejection may undermine EU's effectiveness, warns Swedish premier". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 September 2009. 
  7. ^ EU divided by plan for ‘second-class’ commissioners ft.com 7 January 2007
  8. ^ 'Big three' strike deal on super commissioner, French VAT cuts, 1% ceiling euractiv.com 19 February 2005
  9. ^ "The Union's institutions: Commission". Europa (web portal). Retrieved 6 July 2007. 
  10. ^ Council of the European Union (20 June 2007). "Brussels European Council 21/22 June 2007: Presidency Conclusions" (PDF). Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c REGULATION No 422/67/EEC, 5/67/EURATOM OF THE COUNCIL, EurLex
  12. ^ Base salary of grade 16, third step is €17,697.68: European Commission: Officials' salaries – accessed 19 March 2010
  13. ^ Council Decision of 1 December 2009 laying down the conditions of employment of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, EurLex
  14. ^ Prodi to Have Wide, New Powers as Head of the European Commission iht.com 16 April 1999
  15. ^ Former EU Mandarin Spills the Beans on Commission Intrigue Deutsche Welle
  16. ^ a b EU commissioner backs Royal in French election euobserver.com
  17. ^ Commissioner Louis Michel to stand in the Belgian parliamentary elections europa.eu
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ Hix, Simon (1999) "The political system of the European Union” MacMillan, Basingstoke, p5
  20. ^ Hix Simon (1999) "The political system of the European Union". p5
  21. ^ Brussels struggles with communication policy euobserver.com 9 May 2007
  22. ^ a b Mahony, Honor (4 March 2008). "EU commission musical chairs begins in Brussels". EU Observer. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  23. ^ Latham, Mark (10 April 2008). "Parliament backs Vassiliou as health commissioner". European Voice. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  24. ^ Igra, Daniel (15 April 2008). "Berlusconi victory confirms Frattini's departure". European Voice. Retrieved 15 April 2008. 
  25. ^ Cartledge, Paul (July 2006). "Ostracism: selection and de-selection in ancient Greece". History & Policy. United Kingdom: History & Policy. Retrieved 9 December 2010. 

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