The European Commission acts as the executive of the European Union. It has four main roles:
Legislative role - proposing legislation to the Parliament and the Council;
Implementation role - putting EU policies into effect;
- Legal role - enforcing EU law jointly with the Court of Justice;
- Representative role - representing the EU at international level.
1. Proposing new legislation
The European Commission has an exclusive right to propose new European legislation, which means that the Commission alone is responsible for initiating legislation. Legislation proposals are then submitted to the European Parliament and the Council for approval.
Although the Parliament and the Council have the final word, as they decide on eventual legislation, the importance of lobbying those that are drafting the proposal (within the European Commission) cannot be stressed enough. Once the proposal has gone to the Council, it is indeed very difficult to add aspects that were not included in the original draft as Governments tend to limit proposals rather than extend them. Since the Commission defends the common European rather than the national interests, this lobbying is carried out most effectively at the European level. This is one of AGE’s main tasks.
2. Implementing EU policies and the budget
The European Commission is the executive body of the EU and is therefore responsible for implementing EU law, policies and programmes adopted by the Parliament and the Council, as well as the EU budget.
Once legislation is passed, it is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure its implementation. In adopting technical implementing measures, the Commission is assisted by committees made up of experts of member states or lobbies. In the EU jargon this process is called “comitology”.
3. Enforcing European law
The power to enforce European law is relevant in the field of anti-discrimination legislation on the basis of age in employment. The Commission has the power to start infringement procedures against Member States which have not implemented this legislation. AGE therefore informs the Commission of its members’ views on the way the EU anti discrimination legislation is transposed and implemented at national level.
The European Commission is an important mouthpiece for the European Union on the international stage. It negociates international agreements and treaties in the framework of a mandate agreed upon in the Council. It thus enables the Union to speak ‘with one voice’ in international forums.
The external representation of the Commission will have to be adapted following the creation of the External Action Service. The delegations of the European Commission outside the European Union will become EU delegations.