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03/12/2016

Commissioners search for signals to decide their future

EU Elections 2014

Commissioners search for signals to decide their future

Olli Rehn regarde à l'horizon

Seven Commissioners have won MEP seats, but four of them are undecided if they will take them or stay on as Commissioners, in order to maximise their chances for a better future outside the European Parliament, EurActiv has learned.

All seven Commissioners who took part in the European elections [read more] were elected as MEPs:

  • Vice-President Viviane Reding, the Luxembourg commissioner for Justice and Fundamental rights got the most successful vote since decades for her Christian’s Social People’s Party (EPP-affiliated): 63% of the votes (126.888 votes) in Luxembourg were cast for her with Reding’s party winning in all 108 electoral districts of the country;
  • Vice-President Antonio Tajani, the Italian commissioner for Industry, was elected on the list of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party, EPP-affiliated;
  • Vice President Maroš Šef?ovi?, the Slovak commissioner responsible for Administration, was elected for the party SMER-Social Democracy, PES-affilated.;
  • Vice-President Olli Rehn, the Finnish commissioner responsible for economic and monetary affairs and the euro, has been elected by his liberal-affiliated Centre party.
  • Polish Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, responsible for the budget, was elected MEP from the list of the Civic Platform of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, EPP-affiliated.
  • Croatian commissioner Neven Mimica, responsible for consumer protection, was elected MEP from the Social Democratic Party, PES-affiliated.
  • The most interesting case is that of Belgium’s Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht. He was last on the list of the liberal Open-VLD party of Guy Verhofstadt, without the intention of being elected. But due to the preferential system and to his popularity, he was promoted to number three, and was elected too.

Among the seven, Šef?ovi?  is the only one who is also officially the candidate of his country to be Commissioner again. This means that he would have to relinquish his MEP seat to the profit of the next unelected candidate on his list.

Mimica is also expected to stay as Commissioner, his spokesperson David Hidson confirmed. He did not perform well in the election, as he obtained very few votes. But since he was first on the list, he won the seat. Mimica will definitely be back in the Commission, counting on a full-time mandate this time, as he joined the EU executive only after his country joined the EU on 1 July 2013.

Tajani is the only one who has already confirmed that he will take his MEP seat. According to his spokesperson Carlo Corazza, Tajani earned more than 100,000 personal votes in the Italian electoral college of Lazio, Toscana, Umbria and Marche (central Italy).

But for the others, the future is less clear.

As she has said in interviews, Reding would like to stay on in the Commission. But she also supports the ambition of her compatriot, party fellow and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, to become President of the European Commission. There can be only one Luxembourg national in the Commission. So it is widely assumed that Reding will make her plans known after Juncker’s political future is decided, probably in June.

Regarding Lewandowski, the rumour in Poland is that the Prime Minister Donald Tusk still has to make a final decision, so the present Polish commissioner will stay put until he hears from him. The decision should be made very shortly, a source said.

Rehn needs to decide before other top jobs are discussed

The most intriguing case may involve Rehn. The Finnish politician currently holds the second most important position in the Commission and has big ambitions for his future. Together with his Belgian liberal rival Guy Verhofstadt, Rehn was candidate to be the ALDE candidate for Commission President. But last January, Rehn ceded the race for Commission President to Verhofstadt, with the understanding that in return, he will receive support to run for one of the other senior EU posts in economic or foreign affairs [read more].

It is therefore unlikely that Rehn will be satisfied with an MEP seat. However, the decisions on top jobs, such as the next EU foreign affairs chief, are not expected before September. Rehn may take up the MEP seat or risk losing it, by staying in the Commission. His presence in the EU executive undoubtedly maximises his chances to stay in the loop. Conversely, once in the EP, he risks being “forgotten”.

If EU leaders decide to go for Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen as Commission President, this will certainly be a setback for Rehn, because it would be hard to imagine that two Finns would get two of the handful of top jobs for grabs after the EU elections.

Commission spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said she expected the elected Commissioners to inform President José Manuel Barroso of their intentions to leave the EU executive before the end of June. She said that the Commissioners who would take up their MEP seats will be replaced by nationals of their countries, unless the member states decide otherwise by unanimity.