The European Commission is the most prominent of the major EU institutions: it is the one most often in the news and most often blamed by critics for the excesses of ‘Brussels’. Yet, despite its visibility, the Commission is both less and more than it seems. It is often portrayed as powerful, secretive, expensive and undemocratic, but in fact it has few independent decision-making powers, is one of the most open of all large bureaucracies found anywhere in the world, and has an institutional budget smaller than that of an average mid-sized European city. As for charges that it is undemocratic, it is not much different from national bureaucracies, few of whose staff members are held directly accountable to voters.
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