20th Sep 2018

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 will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.


Commission took no minutes at Juncker speech seminar

In August, Jean-Claude Juncker and his EU commissioners held a two-day seminar at a chateau outside Brussels to prepare this week's State of the Union speech. The commission implies there is no written record.


Juncker, the 'sad and wiser' man of Europe

Despite bold propositions for the EU's future, one could not help feeling the Commission chief's State of the Union address already sounded like a farewell speech.

Visual Data

What Juncker said. A look at numbers.

"World" and "time" are the words the European Commission chief used the most in his last State of the Union address on Wednesday, amid a far-right surge and Trump's isolationism.

News in Brief

  1. EU-Arab League summit proposed for February in Egypt
  2. Stop 'migration blame-game', Tusk tells EU leaders
  3. McDonald's Luxembourg tax deal 'compatible' with EU rules
  4. Danish bank CEO resigns in Russia scandal
  5. Germany seeks to join EU's eastern energy club
  6. UK universities top EU in Chinese ranking
  7. Poland seeks 'Fort Trump' US military base
  8. EU stops Irish case after Apple pays €13bn

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us