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07/12/2016

Juncker delivers on commitment to female commissioners

EU Elections 2014

Juncker delivers on commitment to female commissioners

Jean-Claude Juncker interviews Kristalina Georgieva. [European Commission]

On Wednesday (10 September) Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker finally revealed the portfolios intended for the new commissioners. The portfolios show that Juncker has kept his promises to the member states that sent female commissioners.

In the next five years, three out of seven vice presidents will be women. These women include Kristalina Georgieva from Bulgaria, who will be in charge of the Commission’s budget, Slovenia’s former prime minister Alenka Bratušek in charge of Energy Union, as well as the previous Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, who will be the next High Representative for Foreign Policy. 

Meanwhile, the last six women have been given key portfolios: the Czech Republic’s V?ra Jourová is now in charge of Justice, Romania’s Corina Cre?u will get the responsibility of the Regional Policy, Belgium’s Marianne Thyssen is Employment Commissioner, Poland’s El?bieta Bie?kowska will be steering the EU’s internal market. Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström has secured the Trade portfolio, and Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager will be assuming the Competition portfolio.

During his election campaign last Spring, Juncker stated that 40% of his Commission would be made up of women. But over the summer, it was clear that getting member states to nominate female commissioners would become a challenge. In an attempt to create gender balance, Juncker promised a big portfolio or vice-presidency to member states that presented an official female candidate.

During the presentation of the new commissioner portfolios last Thursday, Juncker said nine women in his Commission is not an advance as far as gender equality is concerned, but it is not a step back, either.

“Getting nine female commissioners was a real struggle. I have started with just three at the end of July, spent the whole month of August on the phone – while you were in the sun – trying to increase that number,” Juncker told journalists during a press conference. 

>> Read: Juncker’s call for female commissioners falls on deaf ears

Juncker’s struggle included persuading Poland to send Bie?kowska instead of the country’s first nominee, Foreign Minister Rados?aw Sikorski. He also succeeded in making Romania nominate Cre?u instead of the previous Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolo?, telling the eastern European country it could give up hopes of once again securing that post. Meanwhile, Belgium was threatened with the less than impressive Multilingualism portfolio, if Brussels decided on former finance minister Didier Reynders instead of Flemish MEP Thyssen.

Juncker also mentioned during his press conference that the nomination of Slovenian Bratušek was secured by promising a vice-president post for the small country.

Lastly, Juncker praised the nomination of Mogherini, stating that he is puzzled by the reception she has received from some member states, calling her ‘inexperienced.’

“I met Federica Mogherini several times and I was not surprised by the quality of her input, but I was rather surprised by comments made by other people thoughout the process of her appointment. She is a highly competent, sensitive woman who understands the challenges of the job and I think she will meet these challenges,” he said, stressing that she will have her office in the Commission to demonstrate that Mogherini is part of the executive.

Juncker also said that current Commissioner for foreign aid, Georgieva, now in charge of Budget and Human Resources, was ‘widely admired’ by governments and parliament. Like Timmersmans, Georgieva will oversee all commissioners. “If you are dealing with budget planning, you’ve got to be in touch with all commissioners,” he added.

Liberal, Scandinavian women with heavy portfolios

Sweden, a country which has a habit of always nominating women as commissioners, announced in July that their candidate would be the liberal Malmström. The previous Commissioner for Home Affairs, who is returning for her second term, will be in charge of Trade, a much sought-after portfolio due to the ongoing negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). German Chancellor Angela Merkel even publicly stated that her candidate, Günther Oettinger, should get this much-coveted portfolio.

On Wednesday Malmström tweeted, “Very honoured and proud to be nominated as responsible for trade in the new Commission. Trade is a vital part of Europe’s economic recovery and a cornerstone of our prosperity. We have much to gain from getting rid of barriers and opening new markets.”

Meanwhile, Danish social liberal Vestager also secured an economics portfolio, Competition. Her future challenges include breaking up cartels, detecting infringements, and coordinating between the EU and US on antitrust matters.

Background

The 30 August summit chose Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini to replace Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton later this year.

As planned, Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker announced the full list of commissioners within one week. 

On 10 September, Juncker annonced a second list outlining the different portfolios each commissioner will have.

Timeline

  • 29 Sept.-3 Oct.: European Parliament to hold hearings with commissioners-designate;
  • 1 Nov.: Mogherini to take on the role as the EU's High Representative;
  • 1 Dec.: Tusk to take on the role as Council President.