The European Commission (EC) represents and upholds the interests of the European Union (EU). It does so by participating in the decision-making process, in particular by presenting proposals for European law, by overseeing the correct implementation of the Treaties and European law, and by carrying out common policies and managing funds.
The European Commission has a unique governance structure. The Commission works under the political guidance of its President. The College of Commissioners represents the apex of the structure, defining policy and taking decisions: it carries political responsibility for the actions undertaken by the Commission. The operational implementation is delegated to Directors-General and Heads of Services, who lead the administrative structure of the Commission.
Composition and Terms of Office
The College of Commissioners consists of 28 members - one from each EU country. A new Commission is appointed every five years, within six months of the elections to the European Parliament. The current President of the European Commission is Jean-Claude Juncker.
The President is nominated by the European Council. The Council also appoints the other Commissioners in agreement with the nominated President. The appointment of all Commissioners, including the President, is subject to the approval of the European Parliament. In office, they remain accountable to Parliament, which has sole power to dismiss the Commission.
The ‘seat’ of the Commission is in Brussels (Belgium), but it also has offices in Luxembourg, representations in all EU countries and delegations in many capital cities around the world.
- Proposing new legislation
Rule-making at European Union level involves various European institutions, in particular the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament (EP). There are two types of legislative tools:
- Regulations - are directly applicable in all the EU States once published in the EU Official Journal;
- Directives - have to be transposed into the national legal order by the EU Member States.
Regulations and Directives may be adopted at two levels - by the European Council & Parliament or by the European Commission. In the latter case the Commission adopts “Implementing Rules” (IRs) in those areas where the Council & Parliament give a mandate to the Commission to develop further the regulations.
The Commission has the ‘right of initiative’. In general it is the Commission that proposes new legislation, but it is the Council and Parliament that pass the laws. To get the technical details right the Commission consults experts, via its various committees and groups. There are also other institutions and bodies which play role in the legislative process.
European Community legislation has primacy over any national rule (in that sense Regulations by the Council/Parliament and IRs are identical in terms of their effect).
- Implementing EU policies and the budget
As the European Union's executive body, the Commission is responsible for managing and implementing the EU budget. Most of the actual spending is done by national and local authorities, but the Commission is responsible for supervising it.
The Commission acts as ‘guardian of the Treaties’. This means that the Commission, together with the Court of Justice, is responsible for making sure EU law is properly applied in all the Member States.
- Representing the EU on the international stage
The European Commission enables the Member states to speak ‘with one voice’ in international forums such as the World Trade Organisation. The Commission also has the responsibility of negotiating international agreements on behalf of the EU. Better regulation approach
The Commission has developed comprehensive policies and mechanisms to provide for a simple and high quality regulatory framework in the EU. This includes the following key actions and mechanisms of particular relevance for the governance of the Commission's work:
- Impact assessment: an important part of making high quality laws is having a full picture of their impacts. The Commission systematically examines the economic, social and environment impacts of its proposals.
- Collection and use of expertise: the Commission has established good practices related to the collection and use of external experts at all stages of policy-making.
- Clear rules and efficient safeguards.
The following principles are observed in the rule-making process:
- The EU should only regulate if a proposed action can be better achieved at EU level and should look at all possible alternatives, including co-regulation and self-regulation;
- Any EU action should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the policy objectives pursued ;
- It needs to be cost efficient and take the lightest form of regulation called for;
- Simplification intends to make legislation at both Community and national level less burdensome, easier to apply and therefore more effective.
European Commission and Civil Aviation Safety
The European Commission’s activities in civil aviation fall within the responsibility of the Directorate-General for Transport and the Environment (DG TREN). Specifically, within the organisation of the Directorate of Air Transport, Unit F2 is responsible for Single European Sky & Modernisation of Air Traffic Control, Unit F3 deals with Air Safety and Unit F4 is responsible for Infrastructures and Airports.
The Commission has developed a range of community regulations and directives, supported by implementing rules (IRs). Since 1994 the use of directives has been mainly employed to put in place provisions regulating the area of accident investigation and safety occurrence reporting. New draft regulations with direct applicability are being considered by the European Commission as regards accident investigation.
Since the launch of the Single European Sky initiative, all major aspects of air traffic management and air navigation Services provided to general air traffic have been covered and for that purpose the European Commission has been assisted by the Single Sky Committee (SSC) composed of two representatives from each EU Member State and chaired by a representative from the European Commission. Through this framewrok, the safety elements of these rules therefore form now an integral part of the safety regulatory baseline applicable in those States where EC applies. In this field, the Community has transposed many of EUROCONTROL Safety Regulatory Requirements (ESARRs) into corresponding IRs.
Launch of EASA
An aviation safety regulatory system was launched by the European Community in 2002, initially focused on airworthiness matters and later extended to flight operations, with the aim to progressively cover the entire aviation system, including Air Traffic Management/Air Navigation Services (ATM/ANS) and aerodromes as these form an indispensable element in ensuring the safety and performance of aviation operations. In this context, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been established as a safety regulatory agency of the Community, independent of the European Commission.
Through the same process used to enhance the original SES provisions, and at the same time, Regulation (EC) No 1108/2009 extends the remit of EASA to ATM/ANS and airports.
This extension of the EASA system into the safety regulation of ATM/ANS gives to EASA competency within the European Union (EU) in some safety areas traditionally covered by EUROCONTROL. Major opportunities are brought by this major development which leads towards the achievement of a total aviation system approach for safety regulation.
Despite organisational independence, the complementary roles of the Commission and EASA require close cooperation, especially in areas such as ATM/ANS where the Commission itself prepares and undertakes rulemaking for aspects other than safety.
Cooperation with EUROCONTROL
The European Commission and EUROCONTROL have signed on 22 December 2003 a Memorandum of Cooperation that covers five potential areas of cooperation:
- Implementation of the Single European Sky;
- Research and development;
- Data collection and analysis in the areas of air traffic and environmental statistics;
- Satellite navigation including Galileo, and
- International cooperation in the field of aviation.
The first area covered in the Memorandum of Cooperation is the Single European Sky (SES). EUROCONTROL has to provide active support to the implementation of the Single European Sky package through specific mandates to be given by the European Commission on the basis of Article 8 of the Framework regulation. The Commission is empowered to mandate EUROCONTROL to develop draft implementing rules (regulations or directives) and to carry out supporting work for the Commission.
The European Commission and EUROCONTROL are co-founders of the SESAR Joint Undertaking established to manage the development of the technological part of the Single European Sky .
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