The Commission is the Civil Service of the EU.  In the same way as in Scotland where the Government is divided into civil servants working in Ministries answerable to a Minister, the Commission civil servants are organised into Directorates-General answering to a Commissioner.

There are 28 Commissioners, one nominated by the Government of each member state.  Many member states appoint heavy hitters as Commissioners to fight for their interests.  The UK Government appointed a member of the House of Lords, Lord Hill, to serve as the UK nominee.

The Commission has three main functions: 

  • it proposes new legislation (or amends existing legislation) to Parliament and the member states;
  • implements and enforces EU laws once they are agreed
  • and increasingly represents the EU and the member states in the wider world, for example in trade negotiations. 

Although it is often condemned as undemocratic, the Commissioners overseeing the Commission are appointed by the Council and Parliament, and any legislation it suggests is amended and negotiated by the Council and Parliament and does not come into force unless there is agreement.