The EU is the result of 28 national governments agreeing to work together on certain areas of policy, where cooperation can benefit all 508 million of their citizens.

The European Commission

This is the EU’s executive body, charged with taking care of the day-to-day administration of the EU. Amongst other duties, it turns the summit conclusions of the EU’s 28 national government leaders into legislative proposals. National government ministers sitting in the Council of the EU and, when national sovereignty isn’t concerned, directly elected Members of the European Parliament, then have the power to amend, reject or approve legislation.

So, is the European Commission run by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, as some claim? The answer is no. The Commission consists of a civil service machinery, run by political administrators known as Commissioners in a similar manner to how ministers run government ministries in the UK. 

For comparison purposes we’ve put together an infographic on how the European Commission is elected and how the UK government is elected:

Download this graphic for your own use here!

The President of the Commission is voted in by indirect elections for a 5 year term following the European Parliamentary electoral cycle. This is similar to how the Prime Minister in the UK is indirectly elected. The Commission President-elect then appoints a cabinet of 27 other Commissioners – one for each Member State- working in tandem with national governments. This must then be formally approved by the European Parliament following a rigorous interview process.

Is the EU ‘too bureaucratic’? It’s a relative term: the EU has 55,000 civil servants; the UK 440,000.

What do the EU institutions do? Find out in our EU jargon buster graphic here!

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