19th Feb 2019

Outlines emerging of new EU commission

  • There will be several familiar faces in the new commission (Photo: European Commission)

The next European Commission is set to be filled with conservative and liberal commissioners, feature several familiar faces, and plenty of new job titles. However, when it will be set up remains the great unknown.

With just over two weeks to go before the current commission officially ends its term, and with weighty portfolios at a premium, member states have begun jostling to get a substantial seat at the commission table for the next five years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Several commissioner hopefuls have expressed an interest in an economic portfolio. A few member states, including Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Spain and Slovakia, have either officially re-nominated the same commissioner or are thought likely to do so.

But for the vast majority of the 27 member states, there is a question mark over who they will send to Brussels. Most notable among the not-yet-named list are Germany, France and the UK. Those who are nominated late may find that the plum positions are already taken.

In Germany, speculation has centred around interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, secretary of state Peter Hintze or centre-right MEP Elmar Brok. Romania has nominated former agricultural minister Dacian Ciolos and is looking for the farm portfolio, while Poland is considering nominating centre-right MEP Janusz Lewandowski and is eyeing the budget dossier.

Ireland is deliberating between former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox and former justice minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn - and while Dublin has resigned itself to winning a less substantial portfolio than the internal market job it currently holds, it will also be looking to be rewarded for the recent Yes vote to the EU treaty.

Malta's Joe Borg would like to stay on in Brussels while Denmark's climate minister, Connie Hedegaard, may be heading to the EU capital. France is reportedly deliberating between Michel Barnier, former commissioner and current MEP, and Christine Lagarde, the highly respected economy minister.

The most powerful posts include internal market, competition, industry and trade. Those at the other end of the scale include transport, communication, education and multilingualism, with the latter viewed almost as an insult.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, himself one of the returning faces, has the power to choose who gets what post, a position that gives him quite some clout. But the selection process can also mean payback time for past favours.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero is said to want a strong commission post for the returning Joaquin Almunia, currently in charge of economic and monetary affairs. His leverage is that Spanish Socialists in the parliament are thought to have voted in favour of Mr Barroso, a centre-right politician, for a second term as commission chief.

New titles

For his part, Mr Barroso has invented a slew of new job titles for his next team. These include commissioners for climate change, interior security, fundamental rights and innovation. He is also set to have a chief scientific advisor.

The next college is likely to have even fewer social democrat commissioners, clocking in at five - from Spain, the UK, Hungary, Greece and probably Slovakia. This is down from seven at the beginning of the first Barroso commission in 2004. It could also have its first non-European origin commissioner in the form of Shriti Vadera, a former UK business minister of Indian origin.

Watchers of the European Commission will be keen to see if the next commission carries over some of the trends of the current set-up, including its much more presidential style.

Piotr Kaczynski, a researcher at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, notes that this commission is "much more concentrated around the figure of the president and much less collegiate." He adds that while it is capable of taking technical decisions, it lacks the capacity to take political decisions.

According to Mr Kaczynski, the weekly meetings of 27 commissioners are much shorter than in the past. "So even if the college is bigger, they talk less," he says, with Mr Barroso and a few "engaged commissioners" tending to take the decisions of the moment.

The commission under Mr Barroso is also widely viewed as no longer being the agenda-setter in the EU, with much of the political impetus coming instead from member states.

Caretaker commission

But even if Mr Barroso is keen to get his new team up and running, the question is when this will happen.

The commission term formally ends on 31 October. As of yet, it is not clear what legal basis will be used for forming a new commission, with the EU hoping to pass on to a new set of institutional rules, but being delayed by ratification problems in the Czech Republic.

EU leaders are meant to discuss the commission posts and the new jobs created by the Lisbon Treaty at their end-of-October gathering but whether they can do this will depend on a positive signal by the Czech president that he intends to the sign the treaty.

The Swedish EU presidency remains keen to have the institutional questions resolved as quickly as possible and the issue is still on the October summit's agenda.

Meanwhile, MEPs on Thursday (15 October) were told to be on the alert for holding commissioner hearings in December. They are reportedly ready to try and fast-track the process by holding two hearings day.

This would likely mean the new Barroso commission being voted on by European Parliament in mid-January.

But if EU leaders are forced to wait until December to sort out the new line up in the commission as has been mooted, it could see the new team put in place as late as March next year.

This would mean four months of a caretaker commission. Even a month or two of a lameduck commission is seen as politically dangerous as the EU heads into international climate change talks and member states look to buck key internal market rules amid the ongoing economic crisis.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

German, French MEPs tried to block #MeToo measure

A majority of MEPs accepted signing a declaration on appropriate behaviour - but some voted against. The opposition came mostly from centre-right German and far-right French MEPs.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  2. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  3. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  4. Former EU official sentenced for office rape
  5. Poland 'boxing in higher league', its PM says
  6. Brexit is wake-up call, Macron to warn in Europe speech
  7. Brexit talks to continue this week over Irish backstop
  8. Visegrad countries meeting with Israel called off

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  2. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  3. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  4. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  5. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  6. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  7. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  8. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us