Action Programmes (Europe)

Upon appointment, the EU Commission issues a five-year action programme, stating broadly the actions and legislation it intends to pursue. A more specific version of this is issued each year. In addition, action programmes for particular policy areas are issued that do not necessarily coincide with the Commission's term of office.

This action programme is nothing like a party manifesto, however – given the lack of a coherent centre of political power in the EU, the Commission does not receive clear and consistent policy direction. In place of an 'EU prime minister', there is the ongoing but sporadic influence exerted variously by the Council of Ministers, the EP and the European Council formally, and member states, sectional bodies and other countries informally. These factors, along with the widely defined job descriptions given to EU civil servants, give the commission and the bureaucracy a great deal of freedom to innovate.

Like the British government, much of the Commission's programme will not actually require legislation. The Commission therefore proposes policy initiatives as well as legislative initiatives – the latter usually following the former when existing powers or the political will of the member states or institutions that are supposed to be implementing them prove insufficient.

In respect of legislation, the Commission has the sole right to draft legislative proposals. Although the council and the EP are empowered to request the Commission for legislation, they are not permitted to initiate or draft proposals themselves.