For more than 60 years the European Commission and its predecessor, the High Authority, has occupied a central position in the institutional landscape of the European Union. That position reflects not only the Commission’s role in shaping policy and legal outcomes but also in facilitating how the EU operates, in monitoring compliance amongst EU members, and in representing the EU externally. Since the end of the 1990s, a number of changes has raised important questions regarding the Commission’s continuing role and influence. Is the Commission still as powerful as it once seemed to be? Has the Commission ‘lost out’ to other EU institutions? Does the Commission retain the trust and perceived legitimacy of other actors, including member states? Has the ‘high tide’ of European integration, and therefore also of the Commission’s powers and influence, now been passed? Such questions animate conversations in and around Brussels, and although they touch upon much broader questions than the prospects for the Commission per se, they do contribute to feelings of uncertainty — and amongst Commission enthusiasts, insecurity — about what the future holds for this uniquely powerful organization.
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