Meet The New Leadership Of Europe: Presenting The "Juncker Commission"

As reported eaelier this morning, here, courtesy of Bloomberg, are the nominees for the next European Commission under the presidency of Jean-Claude "If Serioues Then lie" Juncker, with one from each of the European Union’s 28 countries. Job assignments were announced today by the incoming president, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg.

Juncker sailed through his European Parliament confirmation in July; hearings await the rest in late September, followed by a vote on the whole slate.

Juncker got over one hurdle by persuading EU governments to nominate nine women, the minimum demanded by the Parliament. The team includes five former prime ministers and seven veterans of the previous commission. It is scheduled to take office on Nov. 1 for a five-year term.

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Bloomberg’s list starts with the departmental commissioners, followed by six vice presidents who Juncker said will serve as “coordinators.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, 59, Luxembourg. President.

Juncker ran Luxembourg for almost 19 years, making him the longest-serving prime minister in EU history. He promises a 300 billion-euro ($388 billion) investment program, mainly by shifting around already earmarked funds, and a “fair deal” to make Britain think twice about quitting the bloc.

 

Pierre Moscovici, 56, France. Economic and financial affairs, taxation.

As French finance minister until last March, Moscovici pushed for pro-growth policies as an antidote to the German-imposed austerity during the euro debt crisis.  Moscovici knows his way around the EU, thanks to a previous stint as France’s EU affairs minister. Conflict-of-interest allegations may accompany him to his new post, since a ruling on France’s budget will be among his first tasks.

 

Jonathan Hill, 54, Britain. Financial stability, financial services, capital markets union.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is sending the low-profile onetime education minister to Brussels to do two things: press Britain’s free-market agenda and keep an eye on the EU machinery ahead of a possible 2017 U.K. referendum on leaving the bloc. He takes over financial regulation from a Frenchman sometimes seen in Britain as hostile to U.K. interests.

 

Margrethe Vestager, 46, Denmark. Competition.

Vestager parlayed a degree in economics into a political career, crowned by three years as economy minister. She made her mark in Brussels by steering talks on bank capital rules during Denmark’s EU presidency in 2012, later playing a key role in the setup of the bloc’s banking union.

 

Elzbieta Bienkowska, 50, Poland. Internal market, industry, entrepreneurship.

In another last-minute nomination, Poland dispatched Bienkowska to Brussels after its first pick, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, lost out on the foreign policy job. Now infrastructure and development minister, Bienkowska has spent much of her career parcelling out Poland’s share of EU regional funding.

 

Guenther Oettinger, 60, Germany. Digital economy.

The former German regional politician is among the holdovers from the previous five-year term. As energy commissioner, Oettinger found himself in the middle of  Russia-Ukraine natural-gas wars and EU efforts to diversify its energy supply.

 

Marianne Thyssen, 58, Belgium. Employment and social affairs.

Corporate taxes, bank supervision, the inner workings of the euro, chemical safety and port regulation were among the issues on Thyssen’s plate during more than two decades in the EU Parliament. The trained lawyer also headed the Christian Democratic party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and, like many people mentioned as a possible Belgian prime minister, demurred.

 

Maros Sefcovic, 48, Slovakia. Transport and space.

Another returnee, Sefcovic had the ultimate behind-the-scenes post in the previous commission, responsible for overseeing the bureaucracy and liaising with other EU institutions.

 

Vytenis Andriukaitis, 63, Lithuania. Health and food safety.

A cardiac surgeon, Andriukaitis was in the anti-Soviet resistance during the Cold War and active in Lithuania’s politics since it became independent in 1991. He is currently health minister.

 

Federica Mogherini, 41, Italy. High representative for foreign policy.

Italy’s foreign minister was named the EU’s chief diplomat by national leaders last month, the only job assignment out of Juncker’s control. Mogherini has spent her  career thinking about foreign policy but only six months practicing it, leading to allegations of inexperience. She retorts that she is older than several prime ministers, including her own.

 

Cecilia Malmstroem, 46, Sweden. Trade.

Another commission alumna, Malmstroem headed the department on asylum, immigration and crime-fighting -- areas that are primarily the prerogative of national governments. A doctorate in European politics and parliament experience make her one of the most versatile nominees.

 

Johannes Hahn, 56, Austria. Neighborhood policy, enlargement.

The former Austrian industrialist and research minister is sticking around for a second term. In his first, Hahn doled out the bloc’s annual 45 billion-euro spending on regional aid -- one of those below-the-radar Brussels jobs coveted by EU insiders.

 

Dimitris Avramopoulos, 61, Greece. Migration and home affairs.

Currently Greek defense minister, Avramopoulos’s government career includes stints as mayor of Athens and minister of foreign affairs, tourism and health.  Responsibility for EU migration policy is a coup for Greece, which is grappling with an influx of refugees.

 

Christos Stylianides, 56, Cyprus. Humanitarian aid and crisis management.

The dental surgeon-turned-politician got a taste of the EU limelight as Cypriot government spokesman during the touchiest moments of the debt crisis.

 

Neven Mimica, 60, Croatia. International cooperation, development.

Mimica became Croatia’s first commissioner when it joined the EU in 2013 and was reappointed for a full term. In a diplomatic career that traces to Tito’s Yugoslavia, Mimica also served as European affairs and foreign minister. Consumer protection is his current Brussels beat.

 

Phil Hogan, 54, Ireland. Agriculture and rural development.

Hogan, a former auctioneer, was first elected to parliament in 1989. Appointed environment minister in 2011, his time in office was marked by controversy over forcing households to start paying for their water supply and the introduction of a property tax.

 

Miguel Arias Canete, 64, Spain. Climate action and energy.

Canete’s EU exposure includes serving as Spanish agriculture minister and a member of the EU Parliament’s fisheries committee.

 

Corina Cretu, 47, Romania. Regional aid policy.

In a late switch to get up to the nine-women target, Romania dumped its sitting commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, and nominated Cretu instead. A former journalist, presidential spokeswoman and member of the EU Parliament, Cretu has experience in economic, trade and foreign policy.

 

Karmenu Vella, 64, Malta. Environment, maritime affairs, fisheries.

Vella looks back on an eclectic career as architect, banker, and member of Malta’s parliament since 1976. He is currently tourism minister.

 

Carlos Moedas, 44, Portugal. Research, science, innovation.

A top aide to Portugal’s prime minister, Moedas boasts a background in engineering, a Harvard MBA and Goldman Sachs M&A experience. Portugal’s bailout program has kept him busy since 2011.

 

Vera Jourova, 50, Czech Republic. Justice, consumers, gender equality.

As regional development minister, Jourova has had a hand in dispensing EU subsidies. She has also managed and consulted on investment projects in eastern  Europe and Russia.

 

Tibor Navracsics, 48, Hungary. Education, culture, youth, citizenship.

Hungary’s foreign minister has written books on European politics. Closeness to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a critic of all things European, made it hard for  Navracsics to land a frontline post.

 

VICE PRESIDENTS

Frans Timmermans, 53, Netherlands. Vice president for better regulation.

Stints in Moscow and Brussels dot the resume of the foreign service officer turned politician. As Dutch foreign minister, the polyglot Timmermans earned respect for his solemn response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which killed 196 Dutch citizens.

Valdis Dombrovskis, 43, Latvia. Vice president for euro and social dialogue.

One of the Brussels-bound former prime ministers, Dombrovskis guided Latvia into the euro, quitting in 2013 to take political responsibility for the collapse of a  supermarket roof that killed 54 people.

Jyrki Katainen, 42. Finland. Vice president for growth, investment and competitiveness.

Katainen was Finnish prime minister at the height of the debt crisis, joining Germany and the Netherlands in a northern bloc of fiscal disciplinarians. He got a head  start in Brussels, taking over economic affairs in July after fellow Finn Olli Rehn was elected to the parliament.

 

Andrus Ansip, 57, Estonia. Vice president for single market.

Ansip fought wayward spending at home and Russian interference from across the border during nine years as Estonia’s prime minister. Fellow leaders lauded his  teenager-like facility with the Internet.

 

Alenka Bratusek, 44, Slovenia. Vice president for energy union.

Another small-country former prime minister seeking redemption in Brussels, Bratusek managed -- just -- to save Slovenia from having to request an EU bailout. Her privatization program proved more popular with the EU than with Slovenian voters, leading to her defeat at the polls in July.

 

Kristalina Georgieva, 61, Bulgaria. Vice president for EU budget and human resources.

Also back for a second term, Georgieva got high marks for managing the EU’s humanitarian aid budget during her first five years in Brussels. A technocrat and longtime World Bank employee, Georgieva was in the running for the foreign policy post that went to Mogherini.

 

 


 

And below, courtesy of tje Open Europe think tank, is a flash analysis of the Juncker Commission, titled, A win for the UK as Lord Hill secures financial services brief in new look European Commission

Summary: This looks to be a positive Commission for the UK and the EU. Not only did the UK secure a prime post in terms of financial services, but other crucial posts (Internal Market and Competition) are held by liberal, pro-free trade, non-eurozone countries. Furthermore, the new approach of Vice-Presidents overseeing policy ‘clusters’ sees many of these posts held by liberal eastern member states, whilst the UK will be involved in all the vital clusters – including the Eurozone one. Overall, the setup is favourable in terms of the UK’s key goals of putting the single market at the core of the EU and ensuring euro outs are not underrepresented or overruled by the eurozone.

However, it is important to remember that policies matter just as much as personalities; to read Open Europe’s mandate for the new Commission, which outlines policies which could save European taxpayers £200bn, click the link below:
http://www.openeurope.org.uk/Content/Documents/Open_Europe_Mandate_for_new_European_Commission_140908.pdf

Financial services – a win for the UK
In an unexpected turn, the UK’s Lord Hill secured the role of Commissioner for “Financial stability, financial services and capital markets union”. This looks to be an important victory for the UK given that almost everyone ruled out the UK getting a financial services post and comes despite Cameron’s very public opposition to Juncker’s appointment as Commission President.

What will this portfolio include?

This is spelt out to some extent in a letter from Jean-Claude Juncker to Lord Hill.

  • Overseeing the creation of the banking union – a crucial policy for the Eurozone but also one which threatens to split the EU into euro-ins and outs. In his new role, Lord Hill can ensure this does not happen.
  • Power to review the role of the European supervisory authorities, institutions which have been controversial in the UK since their creation.
  • Responsibility for a Capital Markets Union. While this remains vague it could be a good initiative for the UK since London is already the centre of European capital markets. Lord Hill can base the union around the single market rather than the eurozone.

Why is it so important for the UK?

  • The UK currently has two key court cases ongoing at the European Court of Justice, where the UK has challenged the plans for a bankers’ bonus cap and the ECB’s plans limit the clearing of euros outside the single currency bloc.
  • The volume and severity of financial regulation coming out of the EU over the past few years has been significant and a large concern for the City of London. As Commissioner Lord Hill will have a huge role in determining the flow and focus of regulation.
  • Compared to other portfolios, where the influence is often tempered by intergovernmental negotiations, due to the technical and regulatory nature of financial services, the power of the Commission is disproportionately large.
  • Separating out financial services from the internal market has important implications. It allows the remaining internal market to refocus on trade issues rather than being dominated by financial services (see below). With the UK in charge it is also assured that this brief does not become a proxy for Eurozone measures and cannot be hijacked by a eurozone caucus.

The role is likely to be overseen by Vice-Presidents Jyrki Katainen and Valdis Dombrovskis, although their exact power remains unclear, and both men tend to have liberal pro-free trade instincts and have not shown overt hostility to financial services previously.

All that being said, it will be important to flesh out exactly which areas Lord Hill will have control over and which will fall under the ‘Economic and Financial affairs, Taxation and Customs’ post held by France’s Pierre Moscovici. Given the very different views and approaches of the two men, this split could be very important. Finally, the Commissioner still needs to be approved by the European Parliament (EP). Given its hostility to financial services (and their generally negative view of Anglo-Saxon finance) MEPs could question Lord Hill’s appointment, although the EP has previously never been able to impact the assignment of portfolios.

France gets ECON – what does that mean for eurozone?

There will likely be a lot of talk about former French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici securing the economic portfolio – something Germany originally opposed. However, with former Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen in the VP post overseeing Moscovici, Germany has ensured that there is a voice in favour of austerity and structural reform to balance out the French preference for fiscal expansion.

In any case, Moscovici’s room for manoeuvre is likely to be fairly limited. The economic framework for the Eurozone has already been agreed and the procedure for budget oversight and the European semester remain fairly tight. He can of course adjust the tone, however, decisions in the Eurozone will continue to have an intergovernmental component, not least due to the eurogroup which remains an important forum.

Looking forward, there might still be scope for Moscovici to have some impact:

  • Talk of reform contracts or a new deal on structural reforms is growing, and some deal looks likely. He will be a key player in this and will have scope to draw up the proposals.
  • He will also oversee the euro working groups within the Commission which help set a lot of the technical details and requirements in terms of the EU’s economic regulations and national economies. While this might not seem like much on its own, in sum these can have some influence – for example through pushing to adjust how structural deficits or output gaps are calculated.
  • Other parts of his role could also be important. Control over taxation (and specifically the controversial financial transactions tax) could have implications, with more financial taxes or even direct taxes being proposed. Exactly what areas of financial affairs he will have control over is also unclear.

On balance, it is unlikely much will change in the Eurozone, at least not due to the Commission. Following action by the ECB, the onus is now back on national capitals and the eurogroup to push ahead with overhauling the Eurozone structures.

Netherlands gets ‘better regulation’

Dutch Commissioner Frans Timmermans’ appointment as First Vice-President in charge of better regulation is a positive development for the EU and for Cameron’s reform hopes. A former Foreign Minister, Timmermans was instrumental in coining the Dutch Government’s maxim for EU reform “national where possible, Europe where necessary” and its ‘subsidiarity review’ which had the stated aim of “a more modest, more sober and at the same time more effective” EU. The Dutch Government has already identified 54 specific measures where it wants to see EU legislation scaled back or frozen and Timmermans’ appointment could be a sign that Juncker’s Commission will make a serious attempt to focus EU action on core tasks and give the principle of subsidiarity some teeth. One caveat will be the number of staff and level of leeway which Timmermans is given, if both are limited, so will be his impact. Presenting the new Commission, Juncker said Timmermans will be his “right hand man”.

Poland gets Internal market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
The appointment of Poland’s Elzbieta Bienkowska as the Commissioner for the Internal Market is positive from a UK perspective as Poland generally has an economically liberal, pro-trade outlook. It is unclear however how much political capital Bienkowska is willing to invest in trying to break open the deadlock over services liberalisation as this would involve taking on national interests and large parts of the European Parliament. The combination of this area with industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs may allow for more joined up thinking on how best to create a positive environment for business and break down barriers to trading across the EU for all sectors – vital for economic growth.

Of course, the exact impact will depend on what falls under this portfolio, given that areas such as the energy union and digital single market could be predominantly handled elsewhere. There is a risk that the internal market role could be hollowed out somewhat, this may be a concern for the UK which wants to see the single market put at the core of the EU (though the two are not mutually exclusive).

Having a non-eurozone country in this role is also important for the UK as it helps anchor the view that the single market remains the core uniting principle amongst all EU members. A non-eurozone country may also be more sympathetic and aware of UK concerns over Eurozone abuse of single market rules to help further the agenda of the Eurozone.

Sweden gets Trade

A non-eurozone pro-free trade country securing this portfolio is again positive for the UK and the EU more broadly. Cecilia Malmström should continue to the push to secure an agreement on the EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP), however, with the growing sentiment against the agreement Malmström’s free market credentials may make it hard to persuade protectionist forces.

Belgium gets key post determining EU migrants' access to benefits

Belgium's Marianne Thyssen, a former MEP, will have a big say over any future amendments to, and the enforcement of EU rules on the free movement of workers and the increasingly politically important issue of EU migrants’ access to benefits. Given the importance of reforming EU rules on access to benefits to David Cameron’s overall EU renegotiation, this will be a key portfolio to watch.    

What do the policy ‘clusters’ and super VPs mean?

Juncker has organised his new Commission around a range of clusters (Jobs, Growth and Investment, Digital Single Market, Energy Union and Climate Change Policy, Economic and Monetary Union). Encouragingly for David Cameron, Lord Hill is included in all of them except for the Energy Union – crucially this means the UK has been granted a role in the ‘eurozone’ cluster and can work to ensure that a eurozone caucus does not emerge and threaten the single market.

Under the Treaties, Juncker is able to appoint Vice-Presidents of the Commission and decide on the internal workings of the Commission. It is unclear in practice how that would work, but the hope would be that Commissioners in complimentary portfolios could work more closely together. However, in theory, decisions in the College of Commissioners will still be taken by a majority of all Commissioners in a secret vote.

Will it work? If the new Vice-Presidents can facilitate better policy co-ordination there is the potential to streamline decision making, although given the many areas of overlap, there is also the potential for turf wars. Smaller member states are well represented in the group of VPs which could lead to de-facto political stalemates in certain areas between high-profile commissioners from larger states and the VPs.

In terms of their specific powers, Juncker made clear that the Vice-Presidents “can stop any initiative, including legislative initiatives” of other commissioners – effectively acting as “a filter”. They will also have significant agenda-setting powers, although it remains to be seen how well this arrangement will work in practice.