The Commission is composed of the College of Commissioners of 28 members, including the President and vice-presidents. The Commissioners, one from each EU country, provide the Commission's political leadership during their 5-year term. Each Commissioner is assigned responsibility for specific policy areas by the President.
The Commission operates according to the principle of collective responsibility. Decisions are taken collectively by the College of Commissioners, who are collectively responsible before the European Parliament.
The Commissioners do not have any individual decision-making powers, except when they are authorised by the Commission to take measures in their own name in their area of responsibility. In this case, they undertake the political and legal responsibility of the Commission.
The President plays a significant role: s/he defines the policy direction, assigns portfolios to each of the Commissioners (internal market, regional policy, transport, environment, agriculture, trade, etc.) and can, at any time, change their portfolios. The College sets the strategic objectives and the annual work programme.
Commissioners submit their proposals to the College, which, in general, deliberates by consensus. The College may also take a vote, at the request of a Commissioner. In this case, decisions are taken by simple majority.
The collective responsibility ensures:
-the quality of the decisions, as all of the Commissioners must be consulted on each proposal;
-the independence of the institution, as its decisions are adopted without partisan pressures;
-the sharing of political responsibility by all of the Commissioners, even when the decisions are adopted by majority.