Sunday

11th Apr 2021

New commission sees greater role for Juncker deputies

  • Juncker: 'I am a modest chap, I am not a dictator'

The new EU commission will have a less centralised power structure, with Jean-Claude Juncker delegating more responsibilities to his deputies.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday (10 September) to present his new team, Juncker said that he has "decided to make some changes and shake things up a bit."

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He described himself as a "modest chap, not a dictator" willing to share his prerogatives with the seven vice-presidents, who will now also be able to reject any legislative proposals coming from their colleagues.

One of the novelties will be his "First Vice-President", Frans Timmermans, currently Dutch foreign minister.

"Timmermans will be my right hand, more than just a colleague, he will be my deputy if I'm unable to be physically or mentally present, for instance in the college [of commissioners]," Juncker said.

Timmermans, in charge of "better regulation", will act as a filter for new legislation proposed by his colleagues, making sure that the EU commission doesn't get lost in details and focuses on "big things".

Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva, currently commissioner for humanitarian aid, got a lot of praise from Juncker for her international recognition and was awarded a vice-president post for budget and human resources.

Juncker had promised to give women better jobs to compensate for them being outnumbered by their male colleagues. Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign and security policy is also a vice-president, as well as Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek, in charge of coordinating commissioners related to the "Energy Union" programme.

The other six female commissioners are also in charge of weightier portfolios compared to many of their male colleagues.

Sweden's Cecilia Malmstroem, the outgoing home affairs commissioner, will be in charge of trade - which includes the giant EU-US free trade agreement currently under negotiation.

Denmark's economy minister Margrethe Vestager will take on competition, another of the EU commission's most powerful portfolios, as she will have the power to issue fines against companies that break EU's anti-cartel rules.

Poland's Elzbieta Bienkowska, currently minister for infrastructure and development, will be in charge of internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises.

Romanian MEP Corina Cretu will get regional development, Belgian MEP Marianne Thyssen will be in charge of "employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility" and Czech regional development minister Vera Jourova will have the "justice, consumers and gender equality portfolio."

Overlapping posts on economy

Meanwhile, the "flexible teams" structure Juncker has introduced may lead to clashes and confusions as to who is responsible for what, especially on the economics front, where he had to divide competences among 11 candidates with "a very solid economic and finance background."

France may have got its way in having ex-finance minister Pierre Moscovici in charge of the "economic and financial affairs", which is now also combined with taxation and customs.

But he will be part of two teams overseen by fiscal hawks: former Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who are both vice-presidents on economic matters.

Katainen has the overarching post for "Jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness", which according to an EU source means he will be "in charge of raising €300bn in three months" as Juncker promised in his political priorities.

Dombrovskis, vice-president for "the euro and social dialogue" will oversee the European Semester and whatever Moscovici does.

"The teams are not static, the composition of the groups will have to change sometimes. The two vice-presidents will also have to work closely together," Juncker explained.

In a somewhat unexpected move, Juncker decided to give countries what they most wanted - Britain's Lord Hill got financial services, while Germany's Guenther Oettinger got "digital economy and society", and France economic affairs.

"The countries most concerned also have the best expertise," he said.

The nominees will now appear before the European Parliament's legislative committees in the coming weeks before MEPs take the final vote on whether to appoint the new Commission.

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