Juncker’s Commission: the people behind the portfolios.

10 Sep 2014, keywords : ,

With the Commissioners assigned to individuals, there is welcome news for social dialogue. A new Vice President for the Euro and Social Dialogue and a Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs indicates the Juncker may live up to his promise to be the “President of Social Dialogue”. But who are the people behind the portfolios of Social Dialogue and Social Affairs?

Juncker’s Commission: the people behind the portfolios.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice President for Euro and Social Dialogue

As a former Prime Minister and as a former MEP, Mr Dombrovskis has clearly been rewarded for his experience both at home and abroad, in Lativa and in Brussels. This experience will mean he is well placed in the coordinating role which Mr Juncker sees the new Vice President in charge of.

Overseeing one of the most financially difficult periods for any EU country with an 18% contraction in Latvia’s economy in 2009, Dombrovskis has sailed through turbulent waters. Tough political and economic challenges led to one of the biggest fiscal consolidations to date.

Where is the difference with other countries where the crisis hit? Dombrovskis approach to social dialogue. Talking to a Czech radio station about implementing tough fiscal decisions in 2012, Mr Dombrovskis said “In the case of Latvia, of course what was helpful was that we had a social dialogue. This meant that we were negotiating with trade unions, with the employers’ confederation, with the chamber of commerce, with local governments in order to agree what the measures should be in order to overcome the crisis.

And not that there weren’t complaints – of course there were along with disagreeing with many of the measures. But at least these groups were partly on board in the decision making and they were not calling people out onto the streets.” This is refreshing. This is where the rest of Europe went very wrong.

Under Dombrovskis’ leadership, hopefully social dialogue can be rebuilt and upgraded to a place where it is seen and necessary and becomes automatic. Seen as a principled figure among trade unions in Latvia, he is well placed and has the experience to defend the crucial role played by social dialogue in Europe.

You can read the mission letter sent from Jean-Claude Juncker to Valdis Dombrovskis here.

Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility

Member of the European Parliament since 1991, Marianne Thyssen holds an experienced economic portfolio. Recently appoint Vice Chair of the Economics and Monetary affairs committee, Thyssen brings years of experience and networks in Brussels to the Employment and Social Affairs portfolio. Marianne THYSSEN

Convinced of her ability to defend the interest of workers, Belgian trade unions consider her a good choice for the position as an honest and concrete figure. Not only are trade unions pleased with the choice, but so too was Juncker when nominated by Belgium, as she was rumoured to have been his personal choice given the possibility. Ms Thyssen is also appreciated across the political spectrum, demonstrating her skills for negotiation and compromise.

Thyssen has been offered a broader brief than her predecessor, now covering skills and labour mobility as well as employment and social affairs. Interestingly, the unit dealing with labour market reforms, previously dealt with in the economics portfolio, will now be under Thyssen’s wing. This perhaps indicates a more social consideration to reforms.

You can read the Mission Letter sent from Jean-Claude Juncker to Marianne Thyssen here.

Thyssen is said to be Juncker’s first choice as the Belgian candidate for Commissioner.  © European Parliament

MEPs greet Jean Claude JUNCKER - EC President - Marianne THYSSEN