European Commissioner: Wikis


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A European Commissioner is a member of the 27-member European Commission. Each Commissioner within the college holds a specific portfolio and are led by the President of the European Commission. In simple terms they are the equivalent of national ministers.



The Commissioners are appointed by the member-states together with the President, who decides upon their portfolio. The Commission in its entirety then seeks the approval of the Parliament and the Council of Ministers (by qualified majority).

It should be noted however that although Commissioners are allocated between member-states they do not represent their states; instead they are 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 Commissioner 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 8 of the current 27 Commissioners 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 homosexual Commissioner. The first female Commissioners were Christiane Scrivener and Vasso Papandreou in the 1989 Delors Commission (more on the makeup of the current commission).


Commissioner's oath

Each Commissioner is required to take an oath, officially before the Court of Justice of the European Communities, officially the Solemn undertaking before the Court of Justice by the President and the new members of the European Commission. The oath taken by the members of the current Barroso Commission is below[2];

Leonard Orban taking his oath before taking office in 2007
Having been appointed as a member of the Commission of the European Communities by the Council of the European Union, after the vote of approval by the European Parliament, I do solemnly undertake: to be completely independent in the performance of my duties, in the general interest of the Communities; in the performance of these duties, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government or from any other body; to refrain from any action incompatible with my duties.

I formally note the undertaking of each Member State to respect this principle and not to seek to influence members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks.

I further undertake to respect, both during and after my term of office, the obligations arising therefrom and in particular, the duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance after I have ceased to hold office of certain appointments or benefits.


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.


In 2004, the annual salary of an individual Commissioner was 217,280 euro, while a Vice President earned 241,422 euro and the President 266,530 euro.[3]


The make up and distribution of portfolios are determined by the Commission President and do not always correspond with the Commissions departments (Directorate-Generals). 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 Commissioners in 2007, the portfolios have become very thin even though the responsibilities of the commission have increased.[4]

Portfolio(s) Directorate(s)-General Commissioner Country
President SG, BEPA, SJ José Manuel Barroso  Portugal
Institutional Relations & Communication Strategy COMM Margot Wallström  Sweden
Enterprise & Industry ENTR Günter Verheugen  Germany
Justice, Freedom, & Security JLS Jacques Barrot  France
Transport TREN Antonio Tajani  Italy
Administrative Affairs, Audit, & Anti-Fraud ADMIN, PMO, DIGIT, IAS, OIB,
OIL, (relations with) EPSO, OLAF
Siim Kallas  Estonia
Economic & Financial Affairs ECFIN Joaquín Almunia  Spain
Internal Market & Services MARKT Charlie McCreevy  Ireland
Agriculture & Rural Development AGRI Mariann Fischer Boel  Denmark
Competition COMP Neelie Kroes  Netherlands
Trade TRADE Catherine Ashton  United Kingdom
Fisheries & Maritime Affairs FISH Joe Borg  Malta
Environment ENV Stavros Dimas  Greece
Health SANCO Androulla Vassiliou  Cyprus
Development & Humanitarian Aid DEV, AIDCO, ECHO Karel De Gucht  Belgium
Enlargement ELARG Olli Rehn  Finland
Employment, Social Affairs, & Equal Opportunities EMPL Vladimír Špidla  Czech Republic
Taxation & Customs Union TAXUD László Kovács  Hungary
Financial Programming & the Budget BUDG, OLAF Algirdas Šemeta  Lithuania
External Relations & European Neighbourhood Policy RELEX Benita Ferrero-Waldner  Austria
Education, Training & Culture EAC Ján Figeľ  Slovakia
Regional Policy REGIO Paweł Samecki  Poland
Energy TREN Andris Piebalgs  Latvia
Science & Research RTD, JRC Janez Potočnik  Slovenia
Information Society & Media INFSO Viviane Reding  Luxembourg
Consumer Protection SANCO Meglena Kuneva  Bulgaria
Multilingualism SCIC, DGT Leonard Orban  Romania

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 5 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.[5]


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 in order 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.[6]

Recently, Louis Michel ( Development & Humanitarian Aid) announced that he would go on unpaid leave to take part in the 2007 Belgian elections.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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 [10].

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.[6] Wallström defended this claiming that the EU has to get more political and controversial as being a vital role in communicating the Commission.[11] 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.[12] Following elections in Cyprus, Commissioner Kyprianou left to become Cypriot Foreign Minister.[13] Likewise, Commissioner Frattini left to do the same following elections in Italy.[14] 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.[12]


Under the Treaty of Nice, the first Commission to be appointed after the number of member states reaches 27 will be reduced to "less than the number of Member States". The exact number of Commissioners is 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 will now take effect from the end of the current commission, which is expected to be following the 2009 European elections.[15] The Czech Presidency in January 2009 proposed that the country of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy would lose its Commissioner and all other countries keep theirs.[16] The Treaty of Lisbon would have instead, if it was ratified first, reduce the number of commissioners to two thirds of member-states from 2014; membership would rotate equally and no member state would have more than one Commissioner. The post of European Commissioner for External Relations Commission would also be combined with the Council's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; it would also be a Vice-President of the Commission and would chair the Council of the European Union when Foreign Ministers were meeting.[17][18]

However the treaty was rejected by Irish voters in 2008, with one main concern being the loss of the Irish commissioner. Hence a guarantee given for a rerun of the vote is that the Council would use its power to amend the number of Commissioners to amend the number upwards. However according to the treaties it still has to be fewer than the total number of members, 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.[19] Other ideas that have been floated to deal with the high number of commissioners has been the creation of junior members for smaller states,[20] the creation of "super-commissioners".[21]

See also

External links


  1. ^ [1] BBC: 'Proud' Mandelson back in [UK] cabinet
  2. ^ [2] EU commission: Wording of the oath.
  3. ^ What does an EU commissioner do?, BBC News
  4. ^ Prodi to Have Wide, New Powers as Head of the European Commission 16/04/99
  5. ^ Former EU Mandarin Spills the Beans on Commission Intrigue Deutsche Welle
  6. ^ a b EU commissioner backs Royal in French election
  7. ^ Commissioner Louis Michel to stand in the Belgian parliamentary elections
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ Hix, Simon (1999) "The political system of the European Union” MacMillan, Basingstoke, p5
  10. ^ Hix Simon (1999) “The political system of the European Union”. p5
  11. ^ Brussels struggles with communication policy 09/05/07
  12. ^ a b Mahony, Honor (2008-03-04). "EU commission musical chairs begins in Brussels". EU Observer. Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  13. ^ Latham, Mark (2008-04-10). "Parliament backs Vassiliou as health commissioner". European Voice. Retrieved 2008-04-15.  
  14. ^ Igra, Daniel (2008-04-15). "Berlusconi victory confirms Frattini's departure". European Voice. Retrieved 2008-04-15.  
  15. ^ See the attached Protocol, Article 4
  16. ^ Czechs prepare for possible second Irish No, EUObserver, 8 January 2009
  17. ^ "The Union's institutions: Commission". Europa (web portal). Retrieved 2007-07-06.  
  18. ^ Council of the European Union (2007-06-20). "Brussels European Council 21/22 June 2007: Presidency Conclusions" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-06-22.  
  19. ^ Smyth, Jamie (5 September 2009). "Rejection may undermine EU's effectiveness, warns Swedish premier". Irish Times. Retrieved 2009-09-15.  
  20. ^ EU divided by plan for ‘second-class’ commissioners 07/01/07
  21. ^ 'Big three' strike deal on super commissioner, French VAT cuts, 1% ceiling 19/02/05


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:



European Commissioner (plural European Commissioners)

  1. A member of the European Commission.



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