The New European Commission

Posted on octubre 4, 2014 
Filed under Artículo de prensa, Publicado en Dnevnik (Macedonia)

Juncker

Although we are still in time for the European Parliament to flaunt the political muscle granted to him by the Treaty of Lisbon, rejecting any of the candidates proposed by Jean Claude Juncker, it is quite likely that the composition of the new European Commission for the 2014-2019 period will be no other other than that derived from the list of names, ranks and portfolios made public by its future President on 10 September.

And let us say it openly: these would be great news. Despite repeated questioning of his profile –too conventional–, his ideology –too federalist–, and his origins –yet another Luxembourgeois heading the Commission!–, it is fair to admit that Jean-Claude Juncker has endeavored to form a powerful team of Commissioners, which a priori seems much more capable to develop their job of effectively implementing EU policies than those headed by Portuguese Jose Manuel Durao Barroso during the last two terms.

To begin with, Juncker has solved the problem of the excessively large number of its members –a problem derived of the transitory clauses added to the Lisbon Treaty in order to convince the Irish of having it ratified– by introducing a new hierarchy among its 28 members. Thus, the seven vicepresidencies that will be created will no longer be simple honorary awards to senior commissioners, or to members from countries with greater political weight, but will bring with them the ability to coordinate large areas of management, setting guidelines for action to “sectoral” commissioners. What is both a way to better articulate the Commission and improve the coordination of its policies, and a straightforward manner to clarify the political weight of each of its members.

In addition, Juncker has also managed to dodge the objection that women will continue to be underrepresented in the Commission –of course, not because of his own likes or dislikes, but due to the unwillingness of some Member States to cooperate in the task of achieving some parity– conferring women various portfolios of key political significance. Hence, Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva will remain in charge of humanitarian action, but now as one of the new executive vice-presidents, while the Swedish Cecilia Malmström, repeated in portfolio Interior; thus instituting a kind parity in influence, if not an strictly numerical one.

And if that were not enough, he has excluded from the core of the new EU executive commisioners proposed by almost every major member State, for sure in the belief that they have other fórums –the European Parliament, to begin with, and especially the Council– to assert their political weight in the defense of their specific interests. In doing so, Juncker has also endowed unprecedented power to Commissioners from the new Member States of Central and Eastern Europe, which will be summing no less than four of the seven vice-presidencies: those awarded to the aforementioned Kristalina Georgieva, to the Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis, to the Slovenian Alenka Bratušek and to the Estonian Andrus Ansip. With that, and with a Pole like Donald Tusk presiding over the Council, the European Union will have a much more “eastern” profile than ever before in its history.

However, the main novelty of the new European Commission must be sought not so much in the names, but in the resumès of the candidates for commissioner. These where once mostly amortized politicians, senior bureaucrats with good technical background but little political weight, or uncomfortable guys best kept far away from their capitals. On the contrary, Juncker has put on the table an impressive roster of politicians with long experience in government, among which no less than five former Prime Ministers can be counted –Juncker himself, but also the Finnish Jyrki Katainen, the Slovenian Alenka Bratušek, the Estonian Andrus Ansip and the Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis-, and an even more extensive list of former ministers, former secretaries of state, and former European commissioners.

Consequently, the bigger losers in this new division of powers seem to be Spain and Germany, represented by Miguel Arias Cañete (who will receive the modest portfolio of Energy), and Günther Oettinger (digital economy), both loosing the status of vice-presidents; since among the other “big” the United Kingdom has secured for the Eurosceptic Jonathan Hill the Financial Services portfolio, very much appreciated in the City, Italy has made good use of the political ability of Prime Minister Renzi to achieve the post of High Representative for Federica Mogherini, and even France has fared well with Pierre Moscovici.

In conclusion: the Lisbon Treaty confirmed and expanded the powers of the European Commission, but since then its prestige and political potential has been eroded by the poor performance of the teams lead by Durao Barroso. Only a Commission loaded with both management experience, political clout, and Independence of mind will be in the position to reverse such situation. The team put together by Jean Claude Juncker seems to have at least the adequate profile. Another thing will be, of course, to evaluate at the end of the legislature whether the expectations placed on it have been met or not.

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