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04/12/2016

Moscovici: ‘clusterisation’ is crucial for next Commission

Future EU

Moscovici: ‘clusterisation’ is crucial for next Commission

Pierre Moscovici. World Economic Forum, 24 January. [World Economic Forum/Flickr]

France’s leading candidate for the European Commission, Pierre Moscovici, is certain that Jean-Claude Juncker will be made president. He wants a Commission organised in “clusters” and that includes the Eurogroup President. EurActiv France reports.

Pierre Moscovici, set to take over from Michel Barnier as Commissioner for France, claims that “Jean-Claude Juncker will be the next President of the Commission.”

Speaking at the French Institute for International Relations on 16 June, France’s former Finance Minister stated his support for the European People’s Party candidate, who is fiercely opposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

>> Read: Juncker seen rejecting Cameron’s EU Commission reform plan

“He will be president because there are rules. Whether you like it or not, they are there. There is no ambiguity to the Treaty of Lisbon’s outlook. It is important that the five big parties chose to respect it,” said Moscovici, adding that “conflict between the European Parliament and the Council would be a mistake.”

David Cameron made it clear that the Parliament should not impose its candidate on EU heads of states. The British government is contesting the interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty where the next President of the Commission should come from the parliamentary group that won the EU elections. “The idea proposed by the Parliament is not fair. The Parliament should propose and the Council should dispose,” a diplomatic source told EurActiv France.

“Serious” problem for UK

The issue should be discussed next week during the European Council, 26-27 June. “If there is no consensus when we vote for the President of the European Parliament, there will be a serious problem,” said the source, who sees no problem in waiting for a general consensus before naming the new Commission. The next Commission should take office in November.

“The moment France, Germany and other big European countries agreed on Jean-Claude Juncker, other solutions were no longer welcome,” said Moscovici, who believes that Juncker, being from Luxembourg, is “capable of bridging the gap between the right and the Social Democrats, but also between Germany and France”.

Moscovici is currently acting as a special advisor on European issues to the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. He is preparing a report for the future Commission and will be visiting 15 European countries between now and the end of July.

Break away from Barroso’s “personal” style

Moscovici believes that Jean-Claude Juncker must break away from Manuel Barroso’s style, “which was very personal and concentrated powers”.

He is critical of the outgoing Commission, which has directed Europe for 10 years, and believes that Barroso’s presidential tendencies fragmented the European executive. It should be replaced with a more political Commission organised into five, six or seven “clusters” of core competences regrouping three or four commissioners. The idea is supported by France, Germany and Juncker himself.

“I believe that clusterisation of the Commission is crucial,” Moscovici said.

The idea of clusterisation has fuelled debate in Brussels. Small countries are against grouping portfolios by theme, because they are worried about getting “junior commissioner” positions, while the bigger countries take over the more important portfolios.

Integrating the Eurogroup Presidency to the Commission

Moscovici wants to reform EU governance by integrating the President of the Eurogroup to the EU Commission. The President of the Eurogroup could be combined with the economic affairs portfolio, which also deals with European macroeconomic issues.

A French candidate is unlikely to get the position because France does not meet the 3% target for public deficits, and has record-high public debt. Nevertheless, Moscovici believes France could get the job as a way of appeasing southern member states.

Background

The European elections were held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.

The European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for European political parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This will make the European elections a de facto race for commission president, politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.

But others have argued that the European parties’ push for their own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said, calling for caution in case the council chooses another candidate than the winning party’s frontrunner.

Timeline

  • 26-27 June: EU summit expected to designate new EU Commission President
  • 1-3 July: First plenary session of the newly constituted European Parliament. Informal negotiations with EU heads of states
  • 14-17 July: Parliament votes to approve or reject Commission president nominee in Strasbourg plenary session
  • Summer: National leaders designate their commissioners to Brussels. New president distributes portfolios within his team of 28 commissioners
  • September: Each commissioner is scrutinised in individual hearings before Parliament committees
  • October: European Parliament votes to approve or reject new Commission College as a whole
  • 1 November: Target date for new Commission to take office