While Jean-Claude Juncker, the new Commission President, was approved by MEPs back in July with 422 votes in favour, for the Commission to be able to take office, the College as a whole needs Parliament’s support. Even though a simple majority is enough, the stronger majority gives the new Commission a stronger mandate in political terms.
Confidence in the political mandate is particularly important for the Juncker Commission, which will work along the lines of the political guidelines set out during his approval by MEPs in July. This is what Mr Juncker himself has called a contract with the European Parliament, a contract which the Commission will work hard to respect.
Mr Juncker praised the expertise of his colleagues, comprising several former Prime Ministers, multiple former Foreign Ministers and many returning Commissioners. However, the President criticised Member States nominations of candidates, stating that 9 out of 28 Commissioners being women is still a pathetic record.
Describing the new Commission, Mr Juncker said the executive body will both look and work differently, “Not as the sum of its parts, but as a team. Not through silo mentalities, clusters and portfolio frontiers, but as a collegiate, political body. I want a political, executive Commission at the service of the common good and of Europe’s citizens.”
“A social AAA rating is just as important as a financial AAA rating for Europe”
The President outlined how various policy areas can no longer be considered distinct from one another. The European Semester for example cannot be considered simply as an economic portfolio, but must also take into account the social dimension. Mr Juncker stressed that Europe having a social AAA rating is just as important as having a financial AAA rating.
Much anticipation of Juncker’s address to MEPs was focused on the 300€ billion investment package promised back in July. Questions remain unanswered in this regard. Mr Juncker mentioned only the timeline of this package, commenting that a targeted investment package would be presented before the end of 2014 but conceded that this would not enter into force in the first 3 months of his term of office as previously indicated. Where the 300€ billion will come from or where the funds will be focused remains unclear, with Mr Juncker asking for MEPs to “have a little faith
On the broader economic strategy of the Juncker Commission, the new President admitted the policy would be undramatic. Following the guidelines of the European Council, “Structural reforms, fiscal credibility and investment at national and EU level have to go hand in hand.”
TTIP was a final policy which Juncker considered would be important in MEPs’ minds and worthy of specific attention ahead of the vote. With regards to the sensitive issue of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism, Mr Juncker committed his Commission to the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law: “(In the TTIP agreement), there will be nothing that limits for the parties the access to national courts or that will allow secret courts to have the final say in disputes between investors and States.” This however does not harm his commitment for an ambitious trade agreement with the US and no mention was made of the protection of high European standards, social, labour or environmental.
CESI supports the new Commission in as far as it can deliver on its promises on protecting worker’s rights and social rights in Europe. From public services and free movement of workers to tax evasion and investment, there are many areas where the Juncker Commission must deliver to be considered a success.