Juncker wants more women in new Commission team

Jean-Claude Juncker [European People's Party/Flickr]
Jean-Claude Juncker [European People's Party/Flickr]

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission's President-designate, has urged national governments to appoint more women in his new team of commissioners, and promised to reward those that do so with a big portfolio or vice-presidency.

The former Luxembourg Prime Minister was nominated by EU heads of state on 27 June to become the next President of the European Commission, despite staunch opposition from Britain. 

He will begin negotiations with governments on the distribution of portfolios after the European Parliament confirms him in a vote on Tuesday (15 July).

“He is very worried about the fact that, of all the names circulating, almost all of them are men,” a source close to Juncker told EurActiv. “He has been expressing his concern systematically in all talks with heads of state or government over the past weeks.”

So far, only a handful of governments have announced their nominees to take the Brussels post, and all are men. Amongst them are Jyrki Katainen (Finland), Maroš Šefcovic (Slovakia), Günther Oettinger (Germany), Radoslaw Sikorski (Poland) and Johannes Hahn (Austria). Britain is most likely to nominate Andrew Lansley, EurActiv reported earlier, and most nominees expected from other countries also are men.

A few women's names are circulating but none are confirmed. The Italian foreign affairs minister, Federica Mogherini, could move to Brussels while the outgoing Bulgarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva is expected to renew her mandate. Belgium might nominate the centre-right MEP Marianne Thyssen, and Greece eyeballs former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.

Outside the Commission, the current Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is tipped as future President of the European Council to replace Herman Van Rompuy.

But unless a significant number of other governments put forward women, the next College of Commissioners is likely to be a man’s world.

“Juncker does not believe a Commission with only two or three women would be credible or legitimate,” the source said.

Juncker is now luring national governments to opt for women nominees. “Governments who are willing to propose qualified female Commissioners can expect to be rewarded with important portfolios and/or Vice-Presidents,” according to the source.


Gender disparity could threaten Parliament’s confirmation

Formally, the full list of Commissioners will be adopted by the EU heads of state, in consultation with the new president of the EU executive. Next Wednesday (16 July), they will gather for the first time to discuss the appointments at an EU summit in Brussels. Juncker has asked them to put forward options, including names and their portfolios, in order to complete the puzzle.

Commissioners will then appear at individual hearings before the European Parliament committees in September before the full Parliament holds a vote to approve or reject the new team as a whole.

Juncker toured the EU Parliament over the past two days, holding meetings with all parliamentary groups to discuss his programme and build a majority for his own election vote.

Speaking to the socialist faction in the EU Parliament on Tuesday (8 July), he repeated his call for gender balance, saying he “will fight for a strong representation of women in the Commission”.

“It is difficult to imagine that the Parliament would accept a Commission with fewer female Commissioners than the current one,” Juncker's spokesperson told EurActiv on Wednesday (9 July). The last EU Commission included only nine women out of 28 Commissioners.

In Parliament, MEPs are also urging national governments to ensure gender balance in the new Commission.

“The president supports Juncker in his endeavours to increase the number [of female commissioners]. It is certainly insufficient. The EU is discussing quota for female representation in corporate boards or bodies; it should ensure its own parity, too,” said the spokesperson of Martin Schulz, the EU Parliament president.

The Parliament itself has an overall gender balance of 37% female MEPs and 63% male MEPs. This is just slightly better than the last EU Parliament (35% women versus 65% men).

>> See our infographic: ‘Who is who in the European Parliament’

* This article was updated on 10/7/2014, 14:30.

  • 15 July: Parliament votes to elect Juncker as EU Commission president
  • 16 July: EU leaders gather in Brussels for first discussions on the Commission team
  • 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
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the Englishman's picture

Well one would have hoped that it would be the BEST person for the job, male or female? Is this really the way to go. Throw away a very competent male and put an incompetent female, then get a prize from this Junkers man? And is he the one to be promising prizes???
Of course this could go the other way throw away a very competent female and put a incompetent male in a job.

Eurochild's picture

This article is a little inaccurate as it does not mention that Greece has pretty much already nominated Dora Bakoyannis.

Englishman, yes, you are right, sort of. It is more often the case that very competent females are thrown away and competent males installed instead, in all forms of employment. This is generally because men are more pushy and aggressive, whereas women are quieter and more contemplative. The pushy and aggressive ones find it easier to climb up the career ladder, than the quiter, more contemplative ones, even if the latter are often better candidates.

Bulgaria is a good example - they currently have as Commissioner an individual who is widely regarded as being of the highest calibre, Kristalina Georgieva, and there are calls from many outside of Bulgaria that she be reappointed. But, we are also hearing that the useless and corrupt Bulgarian socialist party leader, Sergei Stanishev, is attempting to push himself forward as the Bulgarian commission nominee. Because the current government of Bulgaria is led by the Socalist party - although there are national elections soon, which they will lose - it is widely feared that they will try and force the corrupt Stanishev on Europe. Although, he will probably be rejected by the European parliament.

The names that have been put around for the British commissioner all appear to be incompetent men who had to stand down as a result of incompetence or a scandal, but since they are friends of Dave he's hoping to bring one of them back into public life in this way.

Mike Parr's picture

In the last para you were surely not referring to "Andrew "Crisps" Lansley" - if you were surely the word "corrupt" should have been included? - after all, it's not like Bulgaria has a monopoly on corrupt politicians - the UK is far more corrupt - with the Tory-Vermin as far out in front as .... well the other night when Germany played some village team from Brazil.

Eurochild's picture

Mike Parr, I'm not sure of the full details so I said "a scandal". I leave it for someone more familiar with the issue to add the word corrupt!