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Denmark nominates Margrethe Vestager as Commissioner

Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Sunday morning (31 August) revealed that she has nominated Economics and Internal Affairs Minister Margrethe Vestager as the country’s next Commissioner.

Thorning-Schmidt made a surprise move by appointing Vestager, a Social Liberal whose party is part of the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), during a press conference after a night when the Danish leader was not named EU Council President, as some had predicted she would be. Thorning-Schmidt is a Social Democrat, and was expected to wait until next week before making an announcement.

Danish media suggesed that the decision was a play for an influential economics or trade portfolio in Jean-Claude Juncker’s new Commission. Juncker has promised prestigious jobs for countries putting forward female Commissioners as he struggles to appoint enough women to his team. A rumour at the EU summit in Brussels said he has decided to give all the economics portfolios to women.

“Vestager is an ambitious politician, she works hard for Denmark, and she will continue to do so. I’m positive she’ll be a strong and influential Commissioner. I’m going to miss her, but that’s that. It’ll be good for Denmark. We made the right decision about the next Commissioner,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

46 year-old Vestager served as education minister in a previous centre-left government in the 1990s before becoming party leader of the Social Liberals in 2007. The Danish prime minister said that there’ll be a government reshuffle in Denmark in the coming week to replace her.

The appointment of Vestager brings the number of women in President Jean-Claude Juncker’s new Commission to five. Sweden, Czech Republic, Italy and Bulgaria are also sending women, while Slovenia has given Juncker three politicians to choose from, including two women. Meanwhile, Belgium, the Netherlands and Cyprus still haven’t announced their Commissioners yet. Juncker has reportedly given Belgium three days to name their choice.

If Juncker’s Commission is approved by the European Parliament in October, Denmark will become the member state which has had the highest number of female commissioners, four. Meanwhile, other countries such as Finland, Belgium and Portugal have never nominated a woman.

Background

The President of the Commission is elected by the Parliament by a majority of its members, on a proposal of the European Council acting by qualified majority. The choice of the candidate for the Presidency of the Commission should take account of the results of the elections in the European Parliament.

In consultation with the President-elect, the Council then adopts the list of the other members of the Commission. These people are chosen on the basis of suggestions made by the governments. The Commission is subject, as a body, to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The College of Commissioners is then formally appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority.

Timeline

  • 9 or 10 Sept. (expected): Juncker to announce his new commissioners and their portfolios
  • October: European Parliament votes to approve or reject new Commission College as a whole
  • 1. Nov.: Target date for the new Commission to take office

Further Reading