Changes in EU leadership (Part 2)

The composition of the European Commission is not entirely chosen by its President: each Member State nominates a candidate to be commissioner and the President chooses which portfolio can be assigned to each one. On September 10th Junker unveiled the portfolios assignment: each candidate will be subjected to hearings at the European Parliament, being questioned by members of parliamentarian commissions responsible for the portfolio assigned. After the hearings, EP votes the EC as a whole. As Parliament cannot vote against individual commissioners, there is usually a compromise whereby worst candidates are removed in order to prevent the whole Commission being rejected.

An important modification of the internal structure of the EC has been made by Junker about the role of the Vice-presidencies[1]: there will be seven Vice-presidents, responsible for policy areas with the role to steer and coordinate the work of the commissioners.

Four of the seven Vice-presidents are former PM (of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia), one is the HR (Federica Mogherini), one is a well experienced commissioner (Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva who was in the run for the role of HR and who will be proposed by Sofia’s Government as UNESCO director-general) and one, Frans Timmermans (the Netherlands) will be the first Vice-president and responsible for better regulation and inter-institutional relations; he will be able to stop any initiative in the Commission and will have direct access to all Directorate-Generals and to the human resources of the General Secretariat. Juncker explained that the Commission will be composed by equals and that “there are team leaders and team players”.

Here follows a short analysis of commissioners who come from Mediterranean countries.

–        Carlos Moedas (Portugal, EPP) – Research, science and innovation: first Portuguese commissioner since 2004, when PM José Barroso was chosen for the first time by the European Council as Commission President and chosen in 2009 once again. Moedas is a secretary of State responsible for the international bailout. The Government described the portfolio as “a relevant post for the future of Europe”, being satisfied with the appointment.

–        Miguel Arias Cañete (Spain, EPP) – Climate action and energy: MEP of the EPP and former agriculture minister, he is known for his sexist sentence during the electoral campaign in which he explained a poor performance in a debate with Elena Valenciano (PES) saying that “in debates with women a man has to control his superiority, intellectual or whatever, to avoid being seen like a macho who is concerning a defenceless woman”. The portfolio is seen as a step back by the previous assignment of Almunia but is seen as an emerging portfolio because of the Ukraine situation. The merger of climate action and energy is seen in a positive way by business group, in order to avoid inefficiencies and clashes between two different Directorate-Generals, but in a bad way by environmentalist with Greens MEPs accusing Cañete of a conflict of interest, being his family tied with oil industry.[2]

–        Pierre Moscovici (France, PES) – Economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs union: former Finance Minister in Ayrault cabinet from 2012 to 2014, has obtained an important role as requested by French President Hollande, but the portfolio has been deprived of the euro jurisdiction (assigned to Latvian former PM Valdis Dombrovskis EPP) and the commissioner is subject to Jyrki Katainen, Vice-president for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, generally considered as a supporter of the austerity policy.

–        Karmenu Vella (Malta, PES) – Environment, maritime affairs and fisheries: he’s the first commissioner candidate to be put forward. He was tourism minister until 2014 Muscat’s cabinet reshuffle. As in Arias Cañete situation, the portfolio is the result of a merger of two different directorates-generals. Vella has been requested by Junker “to carry out an in-depth evaluation of the birds and habitats directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation”. Greens see the request as particularly sensitive because Vella comes from a country that has frequently violated EU rules about the theme and fails to implement the legislation about the bird conservation.[3]

–        Alenka Bratušek (Slovenia, ALDE) – Vice-president for the energy union: former Slovenia PM, she isn’t supported by the incumbent Slovenian cabinet who criticize the fact that she proposed herself as commissioner candidate, within a list composed of other Slovenian politicians, after the defeat of July 13 general election[4]. As Vice-president she will coordinate the climate action and energy (assigned to Arias Cañete), the transport and space policy, the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SME portfolio, environment, maritime affairs and fisheries (assigned to Vella), regional policy, agriculture and rural development policy and research, science and innovation portfolio (assigned to Moedas).

–        Neven Mimica (Croatia, PES) – International co-operation and development: former minister for EU affairs, he has become Croatian commissioner since July 2013 when Croatia entered in the EU. The portfolio is considered one of the weakest and the least profitable for the country, but is generally justified with the recent joining of Croatia to the EU.

–        Dimitris Avramopoulos (Greece, EPP) – Migration and home affairs: incumbent Minister for National Defence, supported Samaras during the contest for the leadership of New Democracy. During last years the creation of a migration portfolio, separated from the home affairs, had been an increasing request, particularly from Mediterranean countries, but it seems that this theme has just become more important, inside the Directorate-General for Home Affairs. Avramopoulos is criticized by some politician for not being experienced enough.

–        Christos Stylianides (Cyprus, EPP) – Humanitarian aid and crisis management: his candidacy was supposed by the Cyprus press but never confirmed by the Government. He has a background in European affairs and was spokesman during a former centre-right government and took part in the negotiations for the Cyprus accession to the EU.

The portfolio, designated as European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, has been assigned to Austrian commissioner Johannes Hahn (EPP), outgoing commissioner for Regional Policy. His appointment came as a surprise, although seems that himself asked for a post closer to the foreign policy. Juncker declared that during his mandate there won’t be any enlargement[5]. This declaration, that seemed political and that affected particularly Serbian and Turkish governments, is actually is a technical one. Regarding the western Balkans area Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have yet to become candidate, Serbia has to resolve the situation with Kosovo, Macedonia has to resolve the name issue with Greece and improve the relation with Bulgaria, Albania has just obtained the candidate status while Montenegro has still a lot of aquis chapter to close.



Bachelor’s degree in European Policy and Integration (University of Padua)



[1]Anon., Vice-presidents to lead teams of commissioners, “European Voice”, September 10th, 2014.

[2]H.Mahony, Greens write letter of complaint over new Spanish commissioner, “EUobserver”, September 24th, 2014.

[3]D.Keating, Juncker’s plan would ‘shut down environmental policy’, campaigners warn, “European Voice”, September 11th, 2014.

[4]N.Bondioli, A new cabinet for Slovenia, after months of political crisis, “Mediterranean Affairs”, September 1st, 2014.

[5]B. Yinanç, EU head Juncker gives no mission statement for Turkey, “Hürriyet Daily News”, September 18th, 2014.

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