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Top EU post

Sabrina Pabst / sgb
June 28, 2014

The European Commission president is a key figure in the most important EU body, analogous to a head of state, with a broad policy mandate. DW reviews how the commissioner is appointed as well as his or her key tasks.

EU flags in Brussels
Image: DW/W. Izotov

The president of the European Commission is the most powerful officeholder in the European Union. He is appointed to a five-year position by the EU's 28 heads of state and government and confirmed by the European Parliament.

The president works as the guardian of EU laws, and election to the post is closely linked with European parliamentary elections. The European Council votes for a nominee for president, based on the results of the most recent European election, and the European Parliament must approve or reject the nomination. The president first starts work six months after the inaugural session of the European Parliament.

The president determines the European Commission's policy agenda. Through his political leadership, he plays a decisive role in the development of the EU. He represents the Commission abroad, such as at the meetings of the G7 group of seven leading industrialized nations and at European Council meetings. He also takes part in the important policy debates of the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

The president appoints the other commissioners in consultation with heads of government, ensuring that each EU country is responsible for at least one commission or area of policy. Only the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, who is the Commission's vice president, is also nominated by heads of both state and government.

Nominees for commissioner must be confirmed by a vote of the European Parliament. The president is also responsible for allocating portfolios to members of the Commission, and can ask for their resignation if needed.

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