Juncker's Commission looking politically conservative, gender imbalanced

Jean-Claude Juncker [EBS]

With one week left before deadline and only four Commissioner nominees waiting to be revealed for the next term, Jean-Claude Juncker's Commission looks to become ever more politically one-sided and gender unbalanced.

Twenty-four countries have so far put names forward, while still four countries have missed the deadline of 1 August: Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark and the Netherlands. The nominees show a clear pattern of mostly being men from right-wing parties.

As 14 of the nominees are centre-right politicians, the European People's Party (EPP) group looks to gain the the majority of Commissioner posts, making the next Commission less politically diverse than the former, where the EPP had 13 posts, the socialists had seven posts, and the liberals were over-represented, with eight posts. Currently the socialists have six posts and the liberals only three. 

Meanwhile, the Commission's president-elect, Jean-Claude Juncker, has stated that he would like to see more women in the EU's executive, promising heavy portfolios and vice-president posts for member states who put women forward. At the moment, nine commissioners (or 33%) are women, but Juncker won't be able to match or surpass this number.

So far, 19 men and only four women have been nominated by member states with only four nominees left to be named. Slovenia is the only country which has given Juncker a list of names to choose from, including two women. However, it's expected that at least Denmark will nominate a woman.

While Danish media for months have reported that Christine Antorini, the current Minister for Education, is a solid guess, other media have reported that Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is likely to be nominated.

Hedegaard, together with Sweden's Cecila Malmström, Austria's Johannes Hahn, Germany's Günther Oettinger, Croatia's Neven Mimica, Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva, Romania's Dacian Cioloş and Slovakia's Maroš Šefčovič would then be the returning commissioners for a second term.

But other experts say Hedegaard's nomination would be unlikely, as the Danish centre-left government wouldn't possibly nominate a candidate from the EPP, though this has been the exact situation in for example Austria.

On Thursday (21 August), the French business daily Les Echo reported that it's getting increasingly likely that Eastern Europe will claim an EU top job for the first time, with the favorite being Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva becoming the next foreign secretary after Catherine Ashton. However, this scenario would only be possible with backing from Poland, who wants to appoint foreign minister Radosław Sikorski to the same job.

Les Echos further said that a top job for Georgieva (representing the EPP) would make Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thoning-Schmidt (a Socialist) a favorite for the job as Council President, replacing Belgian Herman Van Rompuy.

With two women taking on the top jobs, Juncker's Commission would also be more acceptable and easier to approve for the gender-balance conscious European Parliament.

  • Aug.-Sept.: New president distributes portfolios within his team of 27 commissioners
  • 30 Aug.: EU leaders gather for a European Council summit to discuss top jobs
  • 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
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Stanchev7's picture

But other experts say Hedegaard's nomination would be unlikely, as the Danish centre-left government wouldn't possibly nominate a candidate from the EPP, though this has been the exact situation in for example Austria.

Johannes Hahn's ÖVP is in government (with SPÖ) in Austria. So it is not at all surprising that Austria has named an EPP Commissioner, whereas Hedegaard's Conservative People's Party is in opposition in Denmark. So the two situations are not "exactly the same".

Mike Parr's picture

I think around 50% of the Euro population is female and I note that whilst the EPP is the largest faction in the EP - the socialists are not far behind. Given the proposed commission looks to be right wing - and mostly male, perhaps the EP can do Europe a favour and reject the whole lot of them - be interesting to see if Schultz has grown a pair over the hols.

kamenchanov's picture

Juncker's "offer me more women" embodies the fundamental misconception on the true nature of discrimination. If one cannot discriminate against women in the workplace on the basis of their gender, then, conversely, one should not be able to show preferential treatment towards them on the same grounds. There are 28 Member States today, the Commission can easily be composed of an even number of men and women Commissioners. If Member States were obliged to nominate an even number of candidates, 50% women and 50% men, then Juncker would have been able to easily allocate the portfolios both on the basis of their qualifications in accordance with gender requirements. IF gender balance was indeed that truly important. If it is not, then maybe gender balance should not have been put on the front row of the discussions. Of course, this was all probably just a political maneuver...

If Sikorski's given the foreign secretary portfolio, he would be a good pick. I attended a lecture given by him once, and he made a good impression on me. And I think the EU could use a firmer hand in its foreign affairs, one that wouldn't allow the Union to be led by the nose by american interests. Although both Georgieva and Sikorski might be qualified for the job, I suppose that the abovementioned formula would serve the misplaced desires of the European Parliament.