Here at Pluto, we won’t pretend it’s easy to understand how the European Union works. It’d be disingenuous if we did. But what we can do, however, is try and make it easier. Next up in the Referendum Watch series, we’re going to be talking about the European Commission. What is it? What does it do? Does it affect me? By the end of this article, you’ll know the answers to all three.
What is the European Commission?
The European Commission is the executive body of the EU. In the same way the United Kingdom has the Cabinet, the EU has the European Commission. In the Commission, there is a President and 27 other people – one from each Member State of the EU. The President is voted in by a majority of the European Council, which is comprised of Heads of State/Government across the EU. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, is a member of the European Council. The Council’s proposal for Commission President then has to be approved by the European Parliament, which is elected proportionally across the European Union.
What does the European Commission do?
The European Commission is the only part of the EU that can propose laws; other bodies of the EU can amend or veto them, but the power to initially propose them rests with the Commission. EU Citizens can, however, call on the Commission to propose a law via the European Citizens’ Initiative function. Before making a proposal, the Commission consults with various organisations so the economic, social, and environmental impact of a proposal can be published along with the proposal itself.
The proposal then goes to the European Parliament (which functions like the House of Commons in the UK does), and the Council of the European Union (which functions like the House of Lords in the UK does), where it can be amended, passed without amendments, or outright rejected.
If a law passes, the European Commission then makes sure that it is implemented in every Member State.
How does the European Commission affect me?
Every EU Law will have gone through the European Commission. In practical terms, things like the Working Time Directive, which limits the number of hours an employee can work (48 hours a week, plus 11 hours of rest in any period of 24 – though employees can opt out of this), and the cap on (and as of next year removal of) roaming charges, is down to the Commission.
To read more in the Referendum Watch series, click here