Today, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced her proposed team of European Commissioners. If approved by the European Parliament, starting from 1 November 2019, the new Commission will have a more complex structure, including eight Vice-Presidents. Among them is also the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy, Josep Borrel (Spain). The Vice-Presidents will be responsible for the top priorities in the Political Guidelines: by coordinating the Commission’s work on several overarching issues such as the European Green Deal, a Europe fit for the Digital Age, an Economy that Works for People, Protecting our European Way of Life, a Stronger Europe in the World and a New Push for European Democracy.
Out of the eight Vice-Presidents, three Executive Vice-Presidents will serve a double function. If confirmed by the European Parliament, they will be both Vice-Presidents responsible for one of key priorities as well as Commissioners. The first Executive Vice-President is Frans Timmermans (The Netherlands). He is charge of the European Green Deal, meaning that he will coordinate climate policies. In light of the strong results of Green parties across Europe, it can be expected that “Green” policies will play a substantial role in the next term. For Frans Timmermans, who will be supported by DG CLIMA, this means he also has to cooperate with many different Directorate-Generals (DGs), as climate policies interact with policy areas ranging from Transport to Agriculture.
The second Executive Vice-President is Margrethe Verstager (Denmark). She will be overseeing the whole agenda on “a Europe fit for the Digital Age” and at the same time serve as Commissioner for Competition. During the current mandate, Verstager has also been the Competition Commissioner and recently she already paid considerable attention to the digital aspects of competition policy. According to Von der Leyen, this Commission will aim to “make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty”. A focus on these topics can thus be expected from the new Commissioner.
The third Executive Vice-President is Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia). He will be in charge of an “Economy that Works for People” and he will also serve as Commissioner for Financial Services, supported by DG FISMA. In his role as Executive Vice-President, Dombrovskis is expected to focus on sustainable finance, but potentially also on creating a regulatory framework on cyber-security for financial services. According to the mission letter sent by Von der Leyen, Dombrovskis will work to “bring together the social and the market in our economy”. He will also lead the work on strengthening the role of the euro as a strategic asset for the EU and this will include increasing the global use of the euro for payments.
The additional five Vice-Presidents are:
- Josep Borell (Spain) – High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy and Vice-President for “a stronger Europe in the world”
- Věra Jourová (Czech Republic) – Vice-President for “Values and Transparency”
- Margaritis Schinas (Greece) – Vice-President for “Protecting our European Way of Life”
- Maroš Šefčovič (Slovakia) – Vice-President for “Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight”
- Dubravka Šuica (Croatia) – Vice-President for “Democracy and Demography”
Sylvie Goulard (France) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-candidate for the Internal Market. Her work will be supported by DG CNECT and DG GROW, which will from this mandate on be overseen by the same Commissioner. Goulard will be focusing on several digital issues, such as enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty, developing a European approach on artificial intelligence, the new Digital Services Act and a Single market for cybersecurity. Didier Reynders (Belgium) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-candidate for Justice. In this role he will lead the Commission’s work on the comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism. Furthermore, he will focus on consumer protection, implementation of the GDPR and contribute to “a coordinated approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, ensuring that fundamental rights are fully protected in the digital age”. Paolo Gentiloni (Italy) is the candidate to become the new Commissioner for Economy. He will be supported in his work by DG ECFIN and DG TAXUD. In this mandate, he will work on international efforts to find an approach on digital taxation and focus on full implementation of the Union Customs Code. Furthermore, he will aim to turn the European Semester cycle of economic governance into an instrument that integrated the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Rovana Plumb (Romania) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-designate for Transport, supported by DG MOVE. As part of her mission, she will work towards a strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, on extending the Emissions Trading System to the maritime sector and reducing fee allowances for airlines. In addition, she will focus on the review of the Energy Taxation Directive, automated mobility and digital innovation and completing the Trans-European Transport network.
The other Commissioner-candidates are:
- Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) – Innovation and Youth
- Johannes Hahn (Austria) – Budget and Administration
- Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) – Health
- Kadri Simson (Estonia) – Energy
- Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) – International Partnerships
- László Trócsányi (Hungary) – Neighbourhood and Enlargement
- Phil Hogan (Ireland) – Trade
- Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania) – Environment and Oceans
- Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) – Jobs
- Helena Dalli (Malta) – Equality
- Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) – Agriculture
- Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) – Cohesion and Reforms
- Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia) – Crisis Management
- Ylva Johansson (Sweden) – Home Affairs
Overall, the socialists bring a small majority of Commissioners to the College and have most of the economic portfolios. The liberals in Renew Europe also managed to obtain key positions, such as the Executive Vice-Presidency on Digital and Commissioner of Competition, as well as Energy and Values and Transparency. The structure of the new European Commission has changed considerably since the last mandate. There are now Vice-Presidents with double functions and Commissioners overseeing two Directorate-Generals. Furthermore, as Von der Leyen intended, there is indeed a gender-balance in the college of Commissioners; there are 14 men and 13 women. Compared to the previous Commission, there is a vast number of newcomers (19), while eight Commissioners maintain a position in the new configuration.
The next step is for the European parliament to test the entire College of Commissioners. Between 30 September and 8 October, parliamentary hearings will take place with the Commissioner-designates, each Commissioner will be heard by the respective parliamentary committees. The European Parliament cannot reject individual candidates, but they can request a second hearing in case of doubt or exert pressure to replace or re-position a specific candidate. The European Parliament can ultimately reject or accept the entire College of Commissioners. The Plenary vote is scheduled to take place on 21 October. In case of no delays with the decision, the new Commission will take office on 1 November.