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Can the European Commission still be characterised as a 'motor of integration'?
Art. 17(1) of TEU defined the function of the Commission as 'to promote the general interest of the Union and take appropriate initiatives to that end'. Since the 1950s when each of ECSC, Euratom and EEC had their own High Authority, which later were merged in the Brussels Treaty and renamed the European Commission, the Commission has been designed to be the 'guardian of treaties' and the 'motor of integration'—the agent in the
intergovernmentalism' claim that the power of the Commission is waning since its peak during the Delors Commission, and can no longer be characterised as a 'motor of integration'. This view of the Commission is mainly due to two institutional trends in the EU:
more legislative power given to the European Parliament and and the decentralisation of executive power to agencies. If this view of the Commission holds true, it has two substantial implications for the European governance. Firstly, the supranational experiment of the European Commission has failed. European integration is supposed to effect two things: the shifting of power from national level to European level; and from democratic representation to the executive. The Commission, being a supranational European body,
originally designed to have little checks from the Parliament, plays an important role in this process. Secondly, there is no particular motor for integration based on European interests anymore. Certain parties in the Parliament or member states could potentially push for more integration, but the former has little power in setting the agenda, and the latter is likely to have a national agenda, not a European one. This essay argues that from making a judgement of whether the Commission is waning based simply on the decentralisation of its capabilities to agencies, and the checks on its power by the Parliament, Council or EU
citizens is too simplistic. It is deduced merely from the treaty provisions for legal capabilities
1 of the Commission, and had a zero-sum understanding of the relationships among the EU
institutions. When the functions of the Commission, namely agenda setting, legislative and executive are examined, it is clear that the Commission's power in those areas is largely preserved. Moreover, when one understands the role of the Commission to be the visionary, the broker and mobiliser, the founding mission of the Commission as 'the motor of integration' is still very much intact today.
The Commission should set the agenda for European integration by initiating intergovernmental negotiations and proposing policies. According to Wallace, Pollack and
Young (2010), the Commission role in policy design is the strongest at the foundation of the
European Communities, which they refer to as the 'classic community mode'. The prime example of that is Hallstein's role in establishing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Hallstein called a conference of the Community in 1958 in Stresa to discuss the provisions in the Treaty of Rome for a CAP, and after the Community reached a resolution, the
Commission drafted the CAP. However, Commission's leading role in policy design arguably reached another peak in the Delors Commission, when he revitalised the discussions of the
EMU. Within six months of being in office in 1985, the Commission has produced a White
Paper, Competing the Internal Market, which set the target date of December 1992 for the completion (Nugent & Rhinard 42). Moreover, Delors also introduced the social agenda by issuing Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers (the Social Charter)
in 1989 (Nugent & Rhinard 44). This role of the Commission remains strong in the Barroso
Commission (2004-14) and the Juncker Commission (2014-present) in several policy areas.
Firstly, energy and environmental policies. Although it has been on the Commission's agenda for year, a European energy policy is given a boost by European Council's June 2014 issuance of a 'Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change' (Nugent 1201). As a result,
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