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The European Commission

The Commission is a bureaucracy with 33 Directorates General, each covering a separate policy area, but is also run by the Commissioners, one who acts as President and another 27, one from each country, though they are meant to represent the Commission rather than the country they come from.

Each controls a policy area and they have a strongly political role in overseeing that policy. It has tended to be decentralised with each Directorate working in its own way, though successive Presidents have tried to exert more central control.

Until the 1990s, the Commission was seen as the powerhouse of the EU, guarding the Treaty of Rome, initiating legislation and pushing greater integration, particularly the large amount of harmonisation needed after the Single European Act, 1986.

Two presidents have been particularly dynamic; Walter Hallstein, as President from 1958 to 1967, had a clear view of a federal Europe and saw through the implementation of the Treaty of Rome and the Common Agricultural Policy; Jacques Delors, as President from 1985 to 1994, revived the EU when it was in a doldrums and presided over the major extension of integration that became the Maastricht Treaty.

Though the Commission is still very important, power has shifted to the meetings of country leaders in the Council of Ministers which take key decisions and to the European Parliament.

The European External Action Service

The European External Action Service was created in 2010 together with a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as a result of the Lisbon Treaty, to coordinate the EU’s response to foreign policy issues (Kissinger as US Secretary of State in the 1970s had asked who he phoned if he wanted to talk to Europe).

It brings together staff from the Commission and the Council but there are still Commissioners for Development and for policy towards Neighbouring Countries so these overlap with the new service.