In the first article of a series on how the European Union operates, JOHN BOYD looks at the role of the European Commission
The European Commission of 28 is the government of the EU. The president of the commission is agreed by the European Council and endorsed by the European Parliament.
The council then appoints the other 27 commissioners, one from each member state. All commissioners are supposed to be independent, vote in secret by simple majority and are only accountable to themselves. They serve five-year terms and cannot be removed except as a whole by the European Parliament — this only happened once in 1999 following charges of fraud levelled at the commission.
Each commissioner has a portfolio supported by one or more of the 33 Directorates General and services (comprising civil servants similar to national ministries). The trade commissioner is conducting the highly secret TTIP EU-US negotiations. The British commissioner is Lord Hill responsible for financial matters whom David Cameron wanted as commission president to promote City of London interests.
A commission vice-president is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in effect the foreign minister, and represents the EU in world forums such as the World Trade Organisation.
As the EU executive, the commission drafts legislation for the European Council to approve or propose amendments. The commission is also the legislature and promotes the EU.
After Council decisions, the European Parliament can use a system called “co-decision” to rubber stamp or reject the legislation in most areas. It can only suggest amendments. The European Parliament cannot legislate.
EU common policies and legislation in the form of directives and regulations are passed down to member states where governments, including parliaments, rubber-stamp these laws mostly by secondary legislation.
It has been estimated that 50-80 per cent of national legislation emanates from the commission and short-circuits national parliaments.
Directives have to be transposed into national law without amendment and include those on the privatisation of railways, postal services and metric measurements. Regulations have to be acted upon by all member states simultaneously. Regulations include those on the liberalisation of the single market and national subsidies which impinge on “free competition.”
The commission has the power to ensure that this legislation, including treaties and common policies of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), are carried out and can take other EU institutions and member states to the European Court of Justice for failures to do so.
The organisation of the commission includes 24,000 civil servants and agents and 9,000 external staff. This total is a small number of “civil servants” to run the EU (507 million people) compared to that of member states. This is because the work is carried out by the national civil service within the member states when a member state is president of the European Council. Their own civil service bears the brunt of the work for six months.
It is no surprise that the largest numbers of staff of any directorate general is that for translation, with over 2,000 interpreters for 23 official languages. Interpreting has to be performed between all pairs of languages creating mountains of electronic and paper files.
In stark terms the function of the commission includes overseeing the running of the EU’s single market — for the “free movement of capital, goods, services and labour” — to ensure everything works in favour of capitalism, which is stated to be the only economic system enshrined in the European Constitution (Lisbon Treaty) which outlaws socialism.
The commission with the IMF and European Bank is a dictatorial troika that has imposed austerity policies on several member states — for example Greece which has been turned into a subjugate colony within the EU.
The commission is part of the EU, which is the antithesis of democracy with a government which cannot be removed by the electorates and therefore is not a democratic system.
John Boyd is secretary of the Campaign against Euro-federalism and chairman of the European Alliance of EU critical organisations (Team)