#EUstrivesformore – President-elect von der Leyen unveils her ‘geopolitical Commission’
Today (10 September), President-elect Ursula von der Leyen (VDL) presented her team and the new structure of the next European Commission college. The new structure reflects the priorities and ambitions set out in the Political Guidelines that received broad support from the European Parliament in July, writes Catherine Feore.
VDL wants the EU to lead on a “transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world”. But she is keen to emphasize that no one should be left behind. In some ways she has adopted the language of Macron and a Europe that protects. She referred to creating opportunities for all wherever they live, their gender, their age.
President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: “We will take bold action against climate change, build our partnership with the United States, define our relations with a more self-assertive China and be a reliable neighbour, for example to Africa. This team will have to stand up for our values and world-class standards. My Commission will be a geopolitical Commission committed to sustainable policies. And I want the European Union to be the guardian of multilateralism. Because we know that we are stronger by doing together what we cannot do alone.”
The President-elect repeatedly referred to the new Commission as “a geopolitical Commission”.
Earlier this year, the European Council on Foreign Relations commissioned YouGov to carry out surveys covering more than 60,000 people across Europe, the study found that European citizens appear to be more enthusiastic about the EU taking on a stronger geopolitical role than reflected by the current EU policies.
There will be three Executive Vice-Presidents (Vestager, Dombrovskis, Timmermans) and a further five Vice-Presidents, including the High Representative, Josep Borrell. That makes a rather top-heavy eight Vice-Presidents.
Three Executive Vice-Presidents will have a double function. They will be both Vice-President responsible for one of three core topics of the President-elect’s agenda and Commissioners.
Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans (Netherlands) will coordinate the work on the European Green Deal. He will also manage climate action policy, supported by the Directorate-General for Climate Action.
President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said Europe’s Green Deal would become Europe’s hallmark: “Those who act first and fastest will be the ones who grasp the opportunities from the ecological transition. I want Europe to be the front-runner. I want Europe to be the exporter of knowledge, technologies and best practice.”
Timmermans is a First Vice-President in the current Commission, in his current position he has been a strong advocate for, and defender of the rule of law and the EU’s fundamental values.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager (Denmark) will coordinate our whole agenda on a Europe fit for the digital age. That the EVP will retain her role as the Commissioner for Competition, was met with surprise.
President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: “We have 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.”
Big tech will be concerned by this assertion of a need for technological sovereignty. Vestager’s decisions as Competition Commissioner in the current mandate angered many of these companies, aswell as the EU’s work on data protection, copyright and digital sales tax riled those companies who felt that the EU was unfairly focusing on them.
Valdis Dombrovskis will become the Executive Vice-President for “An Economy that Works for People” which will be a continuation of his current role, but without Pierre Moscovici to upstage him. His role will cover financial services, supported by the Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.
President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: “We have a unique social market economy. It is the source of our prosperity and social fairness. This is all the more important when we face a twin transition: climate and digital. Valdis Dombrovskis will lead our work to bring together the social and the market in our economy.”
The five other Vice-Presidents
Josep Borrell (Spain, current Spanish Foreign Minister): HR/VP-designate, A Stronger Europe in the World;
Věra Jourová (Czech Republic, Commissioner in the Juncker Commission): Values and Transparency;
Margaritis Schinas (Greece, former Member of the European Parliament, long-serving official of the European Commission): Protecting our European Way of Life;
Maroš Šefčovič (Slovakia, Vice-President in the Juncker Commission): Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight;
Dubravka Šuica (Croatia, Member of the European Parliament): Democracy and Demography.
The other Commissioners-designate are:
Johannes Hahn (Austria) will be in charge of ‘Budget and Administration‘, and will report directly to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. As a long-serving member of the College, he knows about the importance of nurturing a modern administration.
Didier Reynders (Belgium), who trained as a lawyer, is a highly experienced former national Finance Minister, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Minister of Defence. In the new Commission, he will be responsible for ‘Justice’ (including the topic of the rule of law).
Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) is a current European Commissioner. She worked with dedication and energy on the digital portfolio, and is now moving on to create new perspectives for the young generation (‘Innovation and Youth’ portfolio).
Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) is a medical psychologist with many years of experience in the field of social affairs, health and cancer prevention. She will lead the ‘Health’ portfolio.
Kadri Simson (Estonia) is a long-serving member of the Estonian parliament and Minister for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure. She will be in charge of the ‘Energy’ portfolio.
Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) was not only Finance Minister and a long-standing member of the Finnish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee; she has also worked as a special envoy in Ethiopia. She will take over responsibility for ‘International Partnerships’.
Sylvie Goulard (France), former Member of European Parliament, is a dedicated and convinced European. As the ‘Internal Market’ Commissioner, she will lead our work on industrial policy and promote the Digital Single Market. She will also be responsible for the new Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space.
László Trócsányi (Hungary) is the former Minister of Justice of Hungary. He will lead the ‘Neighbourhood and Enlargement’ portfolio.
Phil Hogan (Ireland), the incumbent Commissioner for Agriculture, will bring his experience to the new Commission in the ‘Trade’ portfolio.
Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), former Italian Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be sharing his vast experience in the ‘Economy’ portfolio.
Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania), Lithuanian Minister for Economy and Innovation, will be responsible for ‘Environment and Oceans’.
Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) is bringing his experience from the European Parliament and his service as national Minister for Employment and Labour, and will now be responsible for the ‘Jobs’ portfolio.
Helena Dalli (Malta) has dedicated her political life to equality, serving as Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, and also as a Minister for European Affairs and Equality. She will lead the ‘Equality’ portfolio.
Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) was a long-serving Member of the European Parliament in the Agriculture Committee and is currently a Member of the European Court of Auditors. He will be in charge of the portfolio ‘Agriculture’.
Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) is currently Vice-Governor of Banco de Portugal. She has been a Member of the European Parliament for many years, and was the Portuguese Minister for Planning and Minister for Environment. She will lead the ‘Cohesion and Reforms’ portfolio.
Rovana Plumb (Romania) is a Member of the European Parliament (Vice-President of the Social and Democrats Group), and is a former national Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Minister of Labour, Minister of European Funds, Minister of Education and Minister of Transport. She will be in charge of the ‘Transport’ portfolio.
Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia) is a Slovenian diplomat. He was Secretary of State for European Affairs, and worked closely for several years with the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union. He will be in charge of the ‘Crisis Management’ portfolio.
Ylva Johansson (Sweden) is national Minister for Employment but also a former Minister for Schools and Minister for Health and Elderly Care and member of Swedish Parliament. She is also a highly respected expert in the fields of employment, integration, health and welfare. She will lead the ‘Home Affairs’ portfolio.