What is the European Commission?
Following her election in July, European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced her team of commissioners, also known as the College of Commissioners, on Tuesday, 10 September 2019.
The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union. It is the sole EU institution with the right to initiate legislation. Its responsibilities include proposing legislation, implementing policies, ensuring that EU law is respected by all Member States and allocating the EU budget. The Commission is organised into various policy departments known as Directorate Generals (DGs). Each DG is responsible for a specific policy area.
The Commission’s work is steered by the College of Commissioners, made up of one Commissioner from each Member State, and is led by the President. Each Commissioner represents the interests of the Union as a whole, not their home country. The Commission has a mandate of 5 years. Once approved by MEPs, Jean Claude Juncker’s successor, Ursula von der Leyen and her chosen College of Commissioners will take up office on 1 November 2019.
What is the College of Commissioners?
President-elect von der Leyen was confirmed President of the Commission by the European Parliament on 16 July 2019. In her speech to the Parliament, ‘A Union that Strives for More’, von der Leyen set out her planned political agenda for the next five years.
Her key political priorities are:
- A European green deal;
- An economy that works for the people;
- A Europe fit for the digital age;
- Protecting our European way of life;
- A stronger Europe in the world;
- A new push for European democracy.
Following von der Leyen’s election, all Member States presented their nominees for the new College of Commissioners. Several Commissioners were nominated for a second term, as was the case for Commissioner Phil Hogan from Ireland.
When announcing her new College of Commissioners and their designated portfolios, von der Leyen also announced various structural changes for the new Commission
If the United Kingdom does not leave the EU on 31 October, it will have to nominate a Commissioner. Thus far, the UK has abstained from nominating a Commissioner which is legal, as long as the UK leaves the Union by 1 November 2019.
The new Commission will have 8 Vice-Presidents, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy. This is different to Juncker’s Commission which consisted of just 5 Vice-Presidents. Each of the Vice-Presidents will be tasked with steering the top priorities of the Union.
The three Executive Vice-Presidents will have a double function. They will each be responsible for one core priority of the President-elect’s agenda and will have access to a DG. Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the current Commission, has been tasked with steering what many predict to be the Commission’s flagship policy; ‘The European Green Deal’. He will also oversee Climate Action policy, supported by the DG for Climate Action. Margrethe Vestager, current Commissioner for Competition, will take the lead on a ‘Europe fit for the Digital Age’. She will also continue as Commissioner for Competition supported by the DG for Competition. The third and final Executive Vice-President is former MEP, Valdis Dombrivskis. Dombrivskis will take responsibility for an ‘Economy that Works for people’. Additionally, he will be Commissioner for Financial Services, supported by the DG for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.
The five remaining Vice Presidents are as follows;
- Josep Borrel: The High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy;
- Věra Jourová: Values and Transparency;
- Maroš Šefčovič: Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight;
- Dubravka Šuica: Democracy and Demography;
- Margaritis Schinas: Protecting our European Way of Life.
Von der Leyen’s announcement that migration affairs would fall under the portfolio, ‘Protecting our European Way of Life’, has been met with some criticism with several calling for the name of this portfolio to be revised.
The other 19 Commissioner-designates are as follows:
- Helena Dalli (Malta), Commissioner for Equality;
- Elisa Ferreira (Portugal), Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms;
- Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria), Commissioner for Innovation and Youth;
- Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), Commissioner for Economy;
- Sylvie Goulard (France), Commissioner for Internal Market;
- Johannes Hahn (Austria), Commissioner for Budget and Administration;
- Phil Hogan (Ireland), Commissioner for Trade;
- Ylva Johansson (Sweden), Commissioner for Home Affairs;
- Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia), Commissioner for Crisis Management;
- Rovana Plumb (Romania), Commissioner for Transport;
- Didier Reynders (Belgium), Commissioner for Justice;
- Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg), Commissioner for Jobs;
- Kadri Simson (Estonia), Commissioner for Energy;
- Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania), Commissioner for Environment and Oceans;
- Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland), Commissioner for Agriculture;
- László Trócsányi (Hungary), Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement;
- Jutta Urpilainen (Finland), Commissioner for International Partnerships.
How is this Commission different?
President-elect von der Leyen has coined the new Commission a ‘geopolitical’ one, differentiating herself from Juncker’s Commission; considered a political one. Von der Leyen strove not only for gender parity, but also geographic equality, ensuring a balance of representatives from across Europe. Within her team of Executive Vice-Presidents and Vice-Presidents, all regions are represented. Furthermore, each of her Executive VPs represent one of the main political groupings in the European Parliament, namely the EPP, S&D and Renew Europe.
The European Parliament must give its consent to the full College of Commissioners before it can officially take up office. Each Commissioner-designate will now face European Parliament scrutiny at a hearing with their respective committee. Before MEPs can question Commissioner-designates, the legal affairs committee must clarify that none of the candidates present a possible conflict of interest.
The European Parliament is required to ensure that all policy areas are covered and that responsibilities are clear. Committee hearings for all 27 Commissioner-designates will take place between 30 September and 8 October 2019. A final vote on the full college will then take place on 23 October 2019.
MEPs have the authority to reject candidates. Should a candidate be rejected by the European Parliament the relevant member state would be required to nominate a new candidate.
Should the college be approved by the European Parliament, it will consist of a record 13 female Commissioners, achieving near gender parity, one of von der Leyen’s flagship commitments.
Von der Leyen has assured that her Commission will be one that keeps its promises and will work to achieve all political priorities as outlined at the start of its mandate. She has promised that it will be a ‘Commission that walks the talk’.
A member of the Christian Democratic Union, von der Leyen served as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs as part of the Government of Germany from 2009 – 2013 and as Minister for Defence as part of the Government of Germany from 2013 – 2019.
- A member of the Danish Social Liberal Party, Vestager served as Minister for Education as part of the Government of Denmark from 2000 – 2001 and as Minister for Economic Affairs and the Interior as part of the Government of Denmark from 2011 – 2014.
- In Europe, Vestager served as Commissioner for Competition from 2014 – 2019.
- Vestager is to become Commissioner for a Europe Fit for Digital Age and Executive Vice-President of the Commission.
- A member of Unity in the Latvian Parliament, Dombrovskis served as Minister of Finance as a part of the Government of Latvia from 2002 – 2004 and as Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia from 2009 – 2014.
- In Europe, Dombrovskis served as an MEP from 2004 – 2009 and as Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue from 2014 – 2019.
- Dombrovskis is to become Commissioner for An Economy that Works for People and Executive Vice-President of the Commission.
- A member of the Labour Party in the Parliament of the Netherlands, Timmermans served as Minister of European Affairs as part of the Government of the Netherlands from 2007 – 2010 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs as part of the Government of the Netherlands from 2012 – 2014.
- In Europe, Timmermans served as First Vice-President of the Commission, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights from 2014 – 2019.
- Timmermans is to become Commissioner for the European Green Deal and Executive Vice-President of the Commission.
- A member of the Spanish Worker’s Party, Borrell served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation as part of the Government of Spain from 2018 to 2019.
- In Europe Borrell served as an MEP from 2004 – 2009 and as President of the European Parliament from 2004 – 2007.
- Borrell is to become the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy.
- Jourová served as Minister for Regional Development as part of the Government of the Czech Republic in 2014.
- In Europe, Jourová served as Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality from 2014 – 2019.
- Jourová is to become Commissioner for Values and Transparency and a Commission Vice-President.
- A member of New Democracy, Schinas served as Head of Press & Information to the European Commission Representation in Greece from 1994 – 1999.
- In Europe, Schinas served as Deputy Head of Cabinet to Vice-President Loyola de Palacio from 1999–2004, as Head of Cabinet to Commissioner Markos Kyprianou from 2004 – 2007, as an MEP from 2007 – 2009 and as Chief Spokesperson in the European Commission from 2014-2019,
- Schinas is to become Commissioner for “Protecting our European Way of Life” and a Commission Vice-President.
- A member of Direction – Social Democracy, Šefčovič served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia as Ambassador to Israel in 1999, Director-General of European Affairs Section at the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2003 – 2004 and Slovak Permanent Representative to the EU from 2004 – 2009.
- In Europe, Šefčovič served as an MEP in 2014, as Commissioner and Vice-President for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration from 2010 – 2014 and as Commission Vice-President for Energy Union and EU Space POlicy from 2014 to 2019.
- Šefčovič is to become Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight and a Commission Vice-President.
- A member of the Croatian Democratic Union, Šuica served as Mayor of Dubrovnik from 2001 – 2009 and as Vice-Chair of the Croatian Parliament European Integration Committee from 2008 – 2011.
- Šuica served as Vice-President of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities from 2004-2014. She has been Vice-President of EPP Women since 2012 and was an MEP from 2013 – 2019.
- Šuica is to become Commissioner for Democracy and Demography and a Commission Vice-President.
- A member of the Labour Party in the Parliament of Malta, Dalli served as Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties as part of the Government of Malta from 2013 – 2017 and as Minister for European Affairs and Equality as part of the Government of Malta from 2017 – 2019.
- Dalli is to become Commissioner for Equality.
- A member of the Socialist Party in the Parliament of Portugal, Ferreira served as Minister for the Environment as a part of the Government of Portugal from 1995 – 1999, as Minister for Planning as a part of the Government of Portugal from 1999 – 2002 and as Vice-Governor of Banco de Portugal from 2017 – 2019.
- In Europe, Ferreira served as an MEP from 2004 – 2016, as Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the Economic, Financial and Social crises from 2009 – 2011 and as Rapporteur on the Regulation of the European Parliament and Council in 2014.
- Ferreira is to become Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.
- In Europe, Gabriel served as Vice President of EPP Women in 2012, as an MEP from 2009 – 2017 and as Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society from 2017 – 2019.
- Gabriel is to become Commissioner for Innovation and Youth.
- A member of the Democratic Party, Gentiloni served as Minister of Communications as part of the Government of Italy from 2006 – 2008 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as a part of the Government of Italy from 2014 – 2016.
- Gentiloni is to become Commissioner for Economy.
- A member of La République En Marche!, Goulard served as President of European Movement – France from 2006 – 2010 and as Minister of Defence as part of the Government of France from 2017 – 2019.
- In Europe, Goulard served as an Advisor to President of the European Commission Romano Prodi from 2001 – 2004 and as an MEP from 2009 – 2017.
- Goulard is to become Commissioner for Internal Market.
- A member of the Austrian People’s Party, Hahn served as the Minister for Science and Research as part of the Austrian Federal Government from 2007 – 2010.
- In Europe, Hahn served as Commissioner for Regional Policy from 2010 – 2014 and as Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations from 2014 – 2019.
- Hahn is to become Commissioner for Budget and Administration.
- A member of Fine Gael, Hogan served as Minister of State at the Department of Finance as a part of the Government of Ireland from 1994 – 1995 and as Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government as a part of the Government of Ireland from 2011 – 2014.
- In Europe, Hogan served as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development from 2014 – 2019.
- Hogan is to become Commissioner for Trade.
- A member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, Johansson served as Minister for Health and Elderly Care as part of the Government of Sweden from 2004 – 2006 and as Minister for Employment and Integration as part of the Government of Sweden from 2014 – 2019.
- Johansson’s is to become Commissioner for Home Affairs.
- Kyriakides served as Vice-President of the Democratic Rally from 2013 – 2019.
- In Europe, Kyriakides served as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) from 2017 – 2018.
- Kyriakides is to become Commissioner for Health.
- Politically unaffiliated, Lenarčič served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia as Ambassador to the OESC from 2003 – 2006 and as State Secretary for European Affairs from 2006 – 2008.
- Lenarčič is to become Commissioner for Crisis Management.
- A member of the Social Democratic Party, Plumb served as Minister of Environment and Climate Change as a part of the Government of Romania from 2012 – 2014 and as Minister of Labour, Family, Social and Elderly Protection as a part of the Government of Romania from 2014 – 2015.
- In Europe, Plumb served as an MEP from 2007 – 2012 and in 2019.
- Plumb is to become Commissioner for Transport.
- A member of the Reformist Movement, Reynders has been Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium since 2004 and served as Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and of Defence from 2018-2019.
- Reynders is to become Commissioner for Justice.
- A member of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers‘ Party, Schmit served as Minister of Labour, Employment and Immigration as a part of the Government of Luxembourg from 2009 – 2013 and as Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy as part of the Government of Luxembourg from 2013 – 2018.
- In Europe, Schmit served as an MEP in 2019.
- Schmit is to become Commissioner for Jobs.
- A member of the Estonian Centre Party, Simson served as a Research Assistant for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in 2003, as Secretary General of the Estonian Centre Party from 2003 – 2007 and as Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure as a part of the Government of Estonia from 2016 – 2019.
- Simson is to become Commissioner for Energy.
- A member of the Farmer’s and Greens Union, Sinkevičius has served as Deputy Leader of the Farmer’s and Greens Union since 2016 and as Minister of Economy and Innovation as a part of the Government of Lithuania from 2017 – 2019.
- Sinkevičius is to become Commissioner for Environment and Oceans.
- A member of the Law and Justice Party, Wojciechowski served as Deputy Speaker of the Polish Parliament from 2001 – 2004.
- In Europe, Wojciechowski served as an MEP from 2004 – 2016, as the Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and as a member of the European Court of Auditors from 2016 – 2019.
- Wojciechowski is to become Commissioner for Agriculture.
- A member of Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance, Trócsányi served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary as Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg from 2000 – 2004 and as Ambassador to France from 2010 – 2014. Trócsányi served as Minister of Justice as part of the Government of Hungary from 2014 – 2019.
- Trócsányi is to become Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement.
- A member of the Social Democratic Party of Finland, Urpilainen served as Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister as part of the Government of Finland from 2011 – 2014. Urpilainen was chair of the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO from 2015-2018.
- Urpilainen is to become Commissioner for International Partnerships.