EXCLUSIVE / Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has sent a letter to all 27 Commissioners warning them not to skip the weekly College meetings, which is the executive’s most important decision-making body.
The College meeting is held every week, usually on Wednesday mornings. Since Juncker took over as Commission President, one or more of the Commissioners, if not the President himself, debrief the press about the decisions made, and answer questions.
The weekly “Calendar” of the Commissioner’s activities provides insight about which Commissioners are missing out the Wednesdays’ College meetings. This week, Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos and Christos Stylianides will participate in events in New York. Last Wednesday (23 September), Vice President Maroš Šef?ovi? was in Luxembourg, Commissioner Günther Oettinger was in the US, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was in Washington, and Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis was in his native Lithuania.
The previous Wednesday (16 September), those who skipped the College meeting were Günther Oettinger, who attended an International Automobile Exhibition in Frankfurt, Commissioner Neven Mimica, who was in Rwanda, Miguel Arias Cañete and Karmenu Vella, both of whom who had a special audience with the Pope at the Vatican, Dimitris Avramopoulos was in Hungary, and El?bieta Bie?kowska was in the US.
The list goes on, but what is obvious is that most of the Commissioners don’t consider Wednesday a special day, when they should be available for the College meeting.
In his 29 September letter obtained by EURACTIV, Juncker reminds the Commissioners that the weekly College meetings are the primary means for the executive to come together and make collective decisions.
“Therefore, absences should be strictly limited to exceptional and justified circumstances, such as inter-institutional obligations or formal requirements of the external representation of the EU”, Juncker writes. Even in the case of Council meetings, when ministers of the member states meet in the presence of the respective Commissioner, there is always the possibility to coordinate and limit the number of Commissioners having to attend,” the President writes.
Juncker reminds the Commissioners that it is his sole prerogative to release Commissioners from their obligation to be present at College meetings, “in duly justified cases and on the basis of a written request”.
Juncker doesn’t say it in his letter, but it is also in his prerogatives to change, at any time, the attribution or shape of the Commissioners’ portfolios.
The former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and veteran politician, has repeatedly said that he wants to lead a political Commission, whose views would carry weight with the member states, at a time when the EU is faced with raising nationalism and inter-governmental wheeling-dealing.