Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

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3.1. Internal coordination within the Commission

3.1.1. The general problem of the Commission's coordination.

The ECJ has granted the Commission general power and liberty to organize its offices to suit the tasks entrusted to it and to assign the staff available in the light of such tasks.[173] Furthermore, the Commission can also issue internal rules on how its offices should be organized in the interests of good administration. If these rules constitute an essential procedural requirement (i.e., they intend to guarantee legal certainty) they should be published according to Article 162 EC Treaty.[174]

The Commission was originally designed under a hierarchical structure on the German and French models, the Division being the basic unit for the organization of work.[175] However, the several enlargements and the growing duties assigned motivated several attempts to improve and adapt the internal coordination of the Commission. In 1978, the Jenkins Commission, with the prospect of further enlargement, asked five independent personalities chaired by Ambassador Spierenburg to look at the structure of the Commission, its machinery and the staff resources available. According to the Spierenburg report, finished in 1979, a smaller Commission (i.e. one national of each Member State) than the seventeen member Commission that was proposed and finally approved, would allow for better coordination, since it could constitute a real team.[176] This report also recommended the creation of a small number of equally balanced portfolios to which a similar number of Directorates General of equal size would correspond. However, this report made little impact and did not lead to any important action.

Furthermore, in the mid-1980s Commissioner Henning Christophersen initiateda process of management modernization mainly directed at improving the internal functioning of the Directorates General without considering the influence of the linkages with the national administrations. This effort, however, did more to raise awareness of management deficiencies and reveal the need for management modernization than produce significant changes.[177]

A more concrete problem, pointed out by the Court of Auditors, is the lack of coordination and the absence of a clear division of responsibilities between the different Commission services.[178] The nature of the different functions assumed by the Commission (which can vary from direct administration to just coordination functions) and a distribution of competences among the different Directorates-General that is frequently unclear, has the result that each Directorate-General tends to work independently of the others. The "General Secretariat" which organizes numerous meetings among officials belonging to different units, and the Cabinets of the Members of the Commission, are the two main elements that counterbalance that tendency.[179] The latter are also responsible for maintaining contact with opinion in Member States and with Commission services.[180] Therefore, it appears that, at present, the problems of coordination are not only a possible conflict over goals between the Commission and national administrations, but also between two or more Directorates General within the Commission.[181]

The problem of internal coordination still remains as an important challenge for the Commission in the future. Indeed, the proliferation of new entities and bodies, such as Agencies or the European Central Bank, is characterizing the Community administration as a "stellar structure" in search of clear coordination.[182] Furthermore, as a consequence of the several enlargements of the Community, the number of Commissioners has increased from the initial nine, to twenty after the last enlargement, which implies difficulties in coordinating such a big group and distributing balanced portfolios. As a consequence, the possibility of reducing the number of Commissioners and reinforcing the powers of the President has been launched as an issue to be discussed within the coming Intergovernmental Conference.

In sum, it can be concluded that although "the Commission is, understandably, reluctant to be regarded as part of the problem, its record is vulnerable to criticism and until now it has escaped the tide of management reforms that has swept through national governments".[183]


3.1.2. The Commission's internal coordination under Article 169 procedure.

Although the "General Secretariat", in conjunction with the Legal Service, are the central bodies of coordination in the infringement procedures, some Directorates General have achieved a certain degree of autonomy in managing the complaints (i.e. the Directorate General responsible for competition policy). Nevertheless, once a decision has been taken to bring a Case to the ECJ, the Legal Service is the only body empowered to represent the Commission. It has been suggested that more decentralization should be applied within the Commission in the decision-making of Article 169 proceedings, since the present centralization delays the solution of cases unnecessarily. In fact, at present, the full college of Commissioners meets only twice a year to consider infringements.[185] However, so that decentralization does not create further problems of coordination, it is first necessary to build up a real enforcement policy, which the Commission has not yet done.

[ ]173See Joined Cases 161 and 162/80 Carbognani and Coda Zabetta v. Commission [1981] ECR 543-582, para. 28, p. 563.

[ ]174See Case C-137/92P Commission v. BASF AG and Others [1994] ECR I-2555 to I-2654, paras. 75 and 76, pp. 2652, 2653; Case C-69/89, Nakajima v. Council [1991] ECR I-2069 to I-2204, paras. 49 and 50, p. I-2183. See General Rules of Organization (O.J. 1960 No. P39/747) and Rules of procedure of the Commission (O.J. 1993 L230/15 amended by O.J. 1995 No. L92/82). See also Section 3 on deadlines for a more detailed analysis of those rules of procedure.

[ ]175For a historical overview of the organization and management of the Commission, see: NOEL, Emile and NUTTALL, Simon "The Functioning of the Commission of the European Communities" in ST. JOHN BATES, FINNIE, W.; USHER, J.A.; WILDBERG, H. (eds.) In Memoriam J.D.B. Mitchell (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1993) pp. 107-117.

[ ]176Report of 24 September 1979 made at the request of the Commission, by a group of five experts chaired by Mr Dirk Spierenburg under the title "Proposals for Reform of the Commission of the European Communities and its Services".

[ ]177METCALFE, Les "After 1992: Can the Commission Manage Europe?" (1992) 51/1 Australian Journal of Public Administration 133.

[ ]178Court of Auditors: Special Report No 7/93 concerning controls of irregularities and frauds in the agricultural area, para. 5.4. p. 22 (O.J. 1994, No. C53/16).

[ ]179In this sense, see DELLA CANANEA, Giacinto "L'Organizzazione amministrativa della Comunità europea" 5-6 Riv. Ital. Dir. Pubbl. Comunitario 1113.

[ ]180See NOEL, Emile and NUTTALL, Simon "The Functioning of the Commission of the European Communities" op. cit., p. 108.

[ ]181On the problem of conflict over goals, in general, see: PRESSMAN, Jeffrey & WILDAVSKY, Aaron Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974) p 133.

[ ]182CASSESE, Sabino "Il sistema amministrativo europeo e la sua evoluzione" (1991) 3 Rivista Trimestrale di Diritto Pubblico 769-774, p. 773.

[ ]183Cf. METCALFE, Les "The European Commission as a Network Organization" in file p. 2.

[ ]184As it was mentioned, Section 3 has dealt with the specific internal proceedings of the Commission as a necessary step to analyze deadlines. We refer to that Section for a more detailed analysis.

[ ]185See HOUSE OF LORDS, Select Committee on the European Communities: Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Legislation, 9th Report (London: HMSO, 1992) p. 32.

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