Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


2. Self-Description and Political Function of the Commission

The memories of the heroic times of the Commission are present in the White Paper.7 They are, however, accompanied by the Commission's claim for an increase in authority, which, for its part, is not justified objectively or functionally. The goal that became clear at the beginning of the Prodi Commission, that of becoming a real government of the EU, finally shows itself, at the very least, in the suggested repression of the Council and Member States which occurred in many areas of the White Paper. The European Parliament is the only institutional political protagonist that is mentioned in a positive light in the White Paper, and it is also the only one that will not stand in the way of such a revaluation of the Commission in the long run.

From an institutional view point, there are many reasons why the Commission should be understood not only as the executive (44f.) but also as a sort of guvernative body for the Community: as in the governments of the Member States, the central purpose of the Commission is to develop law initiatives, to supervise the laws of the administrative sub-divisions, including the Member States, and to enact standard laws that make the basic decisions of the Community's `legislator' concrete. All of these can be understood-without giving the term the wrong emphasis-as political tasks. The Commission guards the rights of the Community, but it has a great deal of elbow room with which to do this. It has defined goals, but also a large choice of methods, and it also has the right to deal with these methods experimentally.

However, this description of function fails when it comes to the exterior of the administrative system, which is called the political process. The addressees of the Commission's trade policy are, in most cases, the Member States or large companies, just as in laws for competition-at any rate, organizations. In this White Paper, this limiting of its political structure of communication clearly influences the Commission's political and democratic concept; in contrast to the governments of the Member States, political communication with a public that has the right to vote does not play an institutional role for the Commission. And it is this that affects both its output and its input. The Commission is programmed by acts of law that are chiefly formulated by the Member States, and it addresses these with its own acts of law. The claim that is casually mentioned in the White Paper, that the competencies of the EU are ones that `were carried over by the citizens' (10), is, however, neither legally nor theoretically democatical correct. On the contrary, the lack of contact with a democratic, political environment-and consequently a decision-making process that can be attributed the equal freedom of all participants-is a decisive institutional condition of the Commission, and even of the entire Union. Clearly, in the White Paper nder consideration, the Commission is searching for a political public. But what will it find in this search?

7 F. J. Scharpf, European Governance: Common Concerns vs. The Challenge of Diversity, MPIfG Working Paper 01/6, sub 5.




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