The EU Commission



The EU Commission are more like our Whitehall Civil servants, though there are differences.

But like our career civil servants (not elected) they don't get to vote on the legislation

They draw up the text of the motions to be voted on by the other two bodies. Its fair to say they are more pro-active in drawing up these motions. In our Westminster government, there is usually a party (or two) with an inbuilt majority, so knowing what is likely to pass can be easily determined - Its what the Governong Party is proposing.

There is no built in majority in the EU parliament so what is likely to have the support of a majority of MEPs is harder to dtermine. Finding this out is the job of the Commisioners and their staff. But, I repeat, they don't get to debate or vote on these measures, the Commission don't have 'Whips' getting MEPs to vote their way. If it looks as if what the Commission is proposing is being passed, thats because the earlier investigations have been done.

Commissioner get NO votes in the European Parliament.

So Commssion draws up the proposed laws in consultation with the ELECTED MEPs, and it is the MEPs who have the power to pass or block laws.

The heads of the department in the Commission - the EU Commissioners - are appointed by the national governments, and they do tend to have been elected politicians in their home country - Neil Kinnock and Leon Brittain have both served terms. This is because political skills are needed to negotiate with the various groups of MEP. Its worth comparing these appointed positions with our own House of Lords.

  • The appointed Commissioners don't get to vote on legislation
  • The appointed Lords do get to vote on legislation

The rest of the commission is made up of career civil servents, just us our Whitehall departments are. But these are the trained lawyers and wordsmiths of the process, not the lawmakers.

There are only 33,000 civil servants working in the EU commission, working on policy for 28 states accross Europe. Compare this to the 59,000 public servant working to run the City of Birmingham. Worth thinking about when you hear of 'inefficient bureaucratic Europe'

Could we improve on the situation?

Almost Certainly. The whole process could be more transparant to the on-looking public. This is a reform that should be made.

It should be noted though that an attempt to improve the transparancy - Televised debates to see which of the EU Commisioners would be the 'Lead commissioner' was ignored by all the UK media. The EU does at least try; maybe we should take more notice.