On Tuesday, the names and portfolios of the designated three Executive Vice-Presidents, five Vice-Presidents and 18 Commissioners have been unveiled by the President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The European Parliament must now give its consent to the entire College of Commissioners, and we expect interesting hearings in the different committees.
We have expressed our deep satisfaction that von der Leyen managed to establish a 13/27 women/men quota. To impose oneself on such a relevant issue is a good start. And as Euractiv put it: “Gender is not the only balance in the EU executive von der Leyen will try to achieve. There is also the balance of political families.” Finally, as von der Leyen stressed herself, the designated Executive Vice-Presidents and Vice-Presidents reflect a geopolitical balance as they represent North and South, East and West of the EU.
On the portfolios, a ‘clustering’ around themes and topics (objectives and priorities) will certainly have been well-reflected, but it always bears a risk of blurring competence and transparency. As different Commissioners will rotate according to the different priorities, friction is likely.
Furthermore, some of the intentions appear to be slightly over-zealous – and possibly paralyzing: for the sake of ‘strengthening the link between the people and the institutions, all members of the Commission will be required to visit every member state in the first half of their mandate. Besides adding (not always necessary, in my humble opinion) hassle to the work, it risks making a travelling circus out of the Commission – while simultaneously proclaiming green and digital agendas. The same goes for the ‘one-in, one-out’ rule to cut red tape: Difficult to imagine how this can be delivered without adding complexity and lengthy political struggles to every single dossier.
It is noteworthy that a very strong focus has been put on ‘European’ values: from the five designated Vice-Presidents, three will be responsible for the ‘European Way of Life’ (Schinas, Greece), ‘Values and Transparency’ (Jourová, Czech Republic) and ‘Democracy and Demography’ (Šuica, Croatia). CESI has always advocated for a strong value-based EU, but placing migration under a new Vice-President post for the defence of the ´European Way of Life´ may not be the most sensitive way of branding it. And credibility suffers if, as in the case of Rovana Plumb, a designated Commissioner has formerly been the object of a criminal investigation request from anti-corruption prosecutors.
The establishment of a new Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space under the determined Internal Market Commissioner-designate Sylvie Goulard, France, is also remarkable. This must be interpreted as a signal to pursue more protective and subsidised European industrial policies, as France, meanwhile reluctantly backed by Germany, has been suggesting for a while. Potential conflicts with the designated Executive Vice-President Margrete Vestager, Denmark, who shall also remain (fortunately!) Commissioner for Competition, are looming.
At CESI, we very much welcome the designation of Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia) as Executive Vice-President ´for an ‘Economy that Works for People’ and Nicolas Schmit (Luxemburg) as Commissioner for ‘Jobs’. Both have a longstanding proven record of social conviction and cooperation with trade unions. In addition, their respective mission letters focus on the implementation of the Social Pillar and largely reflect our key demands on the future of the EU, the fight against social dumping, more investment in people, a more transparent and social-economic governance and the fight against precariousness. This gives justified hope that further social progress will be achieved. And we are more than ready to deliver our part.