The Commission of the European Union is an institution which is independent of the EU Member States. It is made up of 27 members, i.e. one Commissioner from each Member State. In the wider sense, the term Commission is understood to mean the institution as a whole and its thousands of officials. The Commission is based in Brussels, but some of its services are located in Luxembourg, including the statistical office Eurostat. The Commission's key tasks are presenting legislative proposals, ensuring compliance with the Community's founding treaties, participating in EU decision-making, and representing the EU externally, such as in trade policy matters.
In practice, the Commission enjoys sole right of initiative when it comes to Community legislation. As such, most of the time the Council and the Parliament can make decisions only on the basis of Commission proposals. The Commission plays a particularly significant role in policy areas such as agriculture, regional and structural development and trade.
In cases of infringement of Community law, the Commission has the right to initiate legal proceedings against a Member State or a company. For example, the Commission can impose fines on companies for infringing competition law.
The term of office of the Commission is five years. The Commission that was appointed in the autumn of 2009 took office in February 2010, once approval had been given by the Parliament after a hearing of each Commissioner designate. The President of the new Commission is José Manuel Barroso from Portugal, as was the case for the previous Commission. Olli Rehn was selected as the Finnish Commissioner and his remit is economic and monetary affairs. In 2004-2009 Rehn was the Commissioner responsible for enlargement.
Finland's first Commissioner was Erkki Liikanen. He worked in Commissions led by Jacques Santer (1995-1999) and Romano Prodi (1999-2004). Liikanen's portfolio was first administration and personnel, and subsequently information society and enterprise.
The Berlaymont, the Commission's main building, is located in the heart of the EU district by the Rond-Point Schuman, opposite the main building of the Council of Ministers. The Commission also has premises in numerous other buildings.