Does either the UK Government or Prime Minister have any kind of vote or power in order to remove a particular EU Commissioner?

  • 4
    Why the UK specifically? With brexit coming soon it seems like an odd choice, right?
    – JJJ
    Sep 17 '18 at 19:45

No. The government of each member state nominates a member for the Commission, but cannot later give them any orders or remove them from their post. The members of the Commission are to act in the interest of the European Union as a whole, not their home country.

The only ways for a member of the Commission to lose their post before the end of the Commission’s five-year term are (according to TFEU, article 246) if they die, resign, or are compulsorily retired. Compulsory retirement happens when the Court of Justice decides (on application by the Commission or the Council) that a member of the Commission is either unfit for office or is guilty of “serious misconduct”. The President of the Commission can force any member to resign, and the European Parliament can force the whole Commission to resign by a vote of no confidence. That’s it; individual member states have no say in this.

(As a special case, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – who, by virtue of their office, acts as a member of the European Commission, too – can be removed from office by the European Council. The European Council also appoints the High Representative. But again, not by any individual member state.)

  • 1
    (-1) I don't see how this adds anything else to my answer... besides omitting the one role member states governments do have, namely in referring a case to the Court of Justice to force the compulsory retirement of a commissioner.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 18 '18 at 6:50
  • 1
    @Relaxed: Although your answer was posted five minutes before mine, I had already begun writing my answer before that, and it’s completely independent. (In the mobile view, you don’t even get a notification that another answer was posted.) Apart from that, I do think that a systematic look at all ways a commissioner can leave office is worthwhile, and also that it would be wrong to say any member state has “power” to remove their commissioner because of their role as Council member. The CoJ will only retire someone if convinced that there was misconduct, not because anyone wants the removal.
    – chirlu
    Sep 18 '18 at 19:24
  • That's all fine and dandy but that systematic look missed the one way in which member states actually have a role, which is precisely what this question is about! (Note that is says “any kind of vote or power” not “the power” and says nothing about “their” commissioner in particular.) That ought to be explained rather than downplayed. You just added a reference to the Council, which is good, but still haven't acknowledged that member states literally have a vote in the council.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 18 '18 at 20:32

That's only possible in case of misconduct or the like. Concretely, the UK has a vote in the EU Council (whose purpose it is to represent the member states' governments). They can therefore vote to remove a Commissioner by referring him or her to the EU Court of Justice, which can be done with a simple majority in the Council.

[A simple majority means 15 countries, no matter how large or small. The UK, Germany, France or Italy therefore do not formally have any special weight on such a decision. Most Council decisions are not taken by simple majority but through a qualified majority of 55% of the member states comprising 65% of the EU population.]

  • They can therefore vote to remove a Commissioner by referring him or her to the EU Court of Justice. More precisely: They can vote to ask the CJEU to remove him or her (which the latter may or may not do).
    – henning
    Apr 19 '19 at 14:33
  • @henning That's the meaning of the word "refer". I therefore fail to see how my sentence could be conceived in any other way or how yours would be more precise.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 20 '19 at 11:03
  • I think "vote to remove" is slightly ambiguous.
    – henning
    Apr 20 '19 at 12:20
  • @henning Good thing I wrote "vote to remove by referring to the EU Court of Justice" then.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 21 '19 at 15:21
  • Sounds almost as if the court decisions was merely a formality. "Vote to refer to the ECJ for decision to remove" would be less ambiguous. But I'm not trying to argue. Do as you wish.
    – henning
    Apr 21 '19 at 16:16

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