Thursday

21st Nov 2019

The new European Commission: what's next?

Unlike the EU Council and the European Parliament, where members are directly elected, the members of the European Commission must follow a complex procedure to take office.

After the European elections in May 2019, the EU parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the leader of the European Union's executive branch.

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Von der Leyen is the first-ever woman president of the commission. She is set to take office on 1 November 2019 for a five-year term with a team of 26 EU commissioners.

The Finnish EU presidency's deadline for commission nominations elapsed on Monday (26 August).

But Italy has not proposed any one yet and the UK will not do so due to Brexit.

In upcoming days, Italy is expected to send a name to von der Leyen, who is already carrying out informal interviews with candidates.

However, "not every candidate proposed or interviewed will eventually form part of the final team that the President-elect [von der Leyen] will present to the EU parliament," a commission spokeswoman said last week.

Von der Leyen's target of having at least 13 female commissioners (including herself) became possible when France announced Sylvie Goulard as its nominee, bringing the total of female candidates to 12.

Once Italy proposes a candidate, the final list of commissioners will be presented to the EU Council in agreement with von der Leyen, who will then assign one field of expertise (or portfolio) to each of the candidates.

Before the new European Commission can take office, the EU parliament organises public hearings to evaluate the candidates from 30 September to 8 October.

Each candidate must attend a three-hour long hearing in front of the parliamentary committee or committees responsible for the portfolio they have been assigned.

These proceedings can lead occasionally to the withdrawal of a candidate or a change in their portfolios.

Following the hearing, the responsible committees send their evaluations to the president of the EU parliament, David Sassoli.

Once the hearing process is finished, the full "college" of 27 new commissioners, including the vice-presidents and high-representatives of foreign affairs and security policy, will be approved in a single vote of consent by the EU parliament, during its October session in Strasbourg.

If the EU parliament does not approve the commission, changes need to be made before voting takes place again.

However, in practice "the parliament does not vote the endowment [of the new commission] unless there is [absolute] certainty that it will succeed," said an EU spokesperson.

"If during the hearings, there is a problem accepting any of the commissioner's candidates, the changes will be requested at that time," the EU parliament spokesperson added.

Once parliament has given its consent, the European Council officially appoints the European Commission by a qualified majority - 72 percent of member states representing at least 65 percent of the EU population.

Normally a month later, all members of the European Commission are required to swear an oath at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg pledging to respect the treaties of the EU.

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