How about starting the year with a general post of institutional interest ? Let us look at how the composition of the EU Commission has changed.
At present, the EC Commission currently has 27 members, known (un)popularly as “Commissioners”. That is one per member State. The number is currently fixed by Article 213 §1 EC. The Commissioners are appointed for a term of five years and are “chosen for their general competence and of indisputable independence”.
There has been quite a debate over the years about how many Commissioners there should be.
Originally, in the Treaty of Rome before any amendment and when there were six member States, the number of Commissioners was fixed at nine by Article 157: At least one and no more than two Commissioners from each member State. In reality, every member State had one except for Germany, France and Italy which had two. The number of the Commissioners could be changed by a Council decision taken in unanimity.
Those interested in the history of the European institutions should note that the Commission of the EC had nine members, the High Authority of the ECSC had nine also, but the Commission of the EAEC (Euratom) had only five. With the Merger Treaty of 1965, merging the three Communities, the number was fixed at nine Commissioners. When the United Kingdom acceded to the EC in 1973, it was allocated two Commissioners. The same happened for Spain in 1986.
Before the last two enlargements of the EC in 2004 and 2007 respectively, the EU comprised 15 member States, and the Commission was composed of 20 Commissioners.
With a wave of negotiations for the accession of new member States, things had to change or else there would be too many Commissioners with too little to do.
So, the Treaty of Amsterdam (or, a more reliable link, here) which entered into force on May 1st 1999, the rule was modified so that there would be one Commissioner per member State and the big member States (Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Spain) were deprived of their two Commissioners.
The Treaty of Nice entered into force on February 1st 2003 and the system of one Commissioner per member State was maintained. That’s the current rule laid down by Article 213 §1 EC. But ten new member States were set to join the EU in 2004. Consequently, a Protocol on the enlargement of the Union annexed to the Treaty of Nice provided two things. First it provided that on January 1st 2005 and with effect from when the first Commission following that date takes up its duties, the Commission should comprise one Commissioner per member State. But it also provided that when the Union comprised 27 member States a reduction of the number of the Commissioners would take place on the basis of a unanimous decision of the Council providing for a fair rotation taking into consideration the demographic and geographical range of all the member States. That provision in the Protocol applies as from the date on which the first Commission following the date of accession of the twenty-seventh member State of the Union takes up its duties, that is as of November 2009. (The date of January 1st 2005 mentioned in Article 4 §1 of the protocol was changed to November 1st 2004 by Article 45§2(d) of the 2003 Act of Accession).
To go off an historical tangent for a moment, a curious thing happened between May 1st 2004 and October 30th 2004: There were 30 Commissioners during that time. Why? Because Article 42§2(a) of the 2003 Act of Accession provided that one Commissioner per new member State would be added from the moment of accession. As ten new countries acceded on May 1st 2004 which was during the term of office of a Commission, that meant adding ten Commissioners to the existing 20. Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain still had two Commissioners each at that time and there was no provision permitting their reduction to one each during their term of office. Consequently, the Commission continued from May 1st 2004 until the end of its term of office on October 30th 2004 with the “extra” five Commissioners.
At present, the Commissioners number 27 because a Commissioner from Bulgaria and Romania is added from the date of accession of those countries. But from the next Commission (i.e. as of November 2009), their number should be reduced. The final figure remains to be determined by a unanimous Council decision according to the system of rotation mentioned. That’s the system as long as the Nice Treaty remains in force.
But then there’s the Lisbon Treaty that complicates matters (for a consolidated version, see here). That Treaty provides – should it enter into force – that the Commission appointed until October 31st 2014 shall consist of one national of each member State, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who shall be one of its Vice-Presidents. As from November 1st 2014, the Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding to two thirds of the number of the member States, unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter that number. For our post on this, see here.
The European Council has already committed to changing that number in order, apparently, to accommodate Ireland should there be a second referendum there on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. It decided on December 11th and 12th 2008 as follows:
“On the composition of the Commission, the European Council recalls that the Treaties currently in force require that the number of Commissioners be reduced in 2009. The European Council agrees that provided the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, a decision will be taken, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, to the effect that the Commission shall continue to include one national of each Member State.”
That probably means that from November 1st 2014 the current rule of one Commissioner per member State will continue.
What we’ve seen over the years is EU membership multiply by four and a half to go from six to 27 member States but the number of Commissioners has multiplied only by three. We’ll leave political scientists and the intellectually inclined to debate whether that fact fits into or supports any of the theories of European integration such a federalism, functionalism, neofunctionalism, intergovernmentalism, institutionalism or whatever.
For some more history:
Hallstein Commission: 9 members;
Rey Commission: 9 members
Malfatti Commission: 9 members
Mansholt Commission: 9 members
Ortoli Commission: 13 members
Jenkins Commission: 13 members
Thorn Commission: 17 members
Delors Commission: Ist and 2nd terms, 17 members, third term also 17 members.
Santer Commission: 20 members
Prodi Commission: 20 members but from May 1st 2004, 30 members
Barroso Commission (in French): 27 members.