Commissioners assemble: Class of 2019-2024

Ursula von der Leyen has built her team. [Photo: European Commission]

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled who will do what job in her administration, insisting hers will be a “geopolitical Commission”. Stay tuned here for all the details.

UPDATE: Candidates from the EU27 have now been vetted and approved ahead of a final vote on the full team. The Commission has threatened to launch an infringement procedure against the UK due to its lack of nomination.

Only 23 out of 26 candidates were confirmed by the European Parliament after two weeks of committee hearings. A second round saw the remaining three given the green light and a vote on the full Commission is set to be held on 1 December.

Von der Leyen’s Commission will have three executive vice-presidents in Frans Timmermans, Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrokvskis. They will also serve as regular Commissioners, not just coordinators.

There will also be five regular vice-presidents: Josep Borrell, Věra Jourová, Margaritis Schinas, Maroš Šefčovič and Dubravka Šuica.

 

Johannes Hahn (EPP)

Portfolio: Budget and Administration

The current EU enlargement chief was nominated for another spell in Brussels, after first arriving at the Berlaymont HQ in 2010 as regional policy Commissioner. He will report directly to von der Leyen and will be her lieutenant in making sure the Commission is gender-balanced and fully digital. A budget committee hearing on 3 October ended in success, meaning the Austrian will serve a 3rd term in the Commission.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter from von der Leyen

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Didier Reynders (Renew)

Portfolio: Justice

Reynders will take on the rule of law job. Belgium’s foreign minister was in the running to be Commissioner under Jean-Claude Juncker but was ultimately unsuccessful, as the outgoing Commission chief wanted a female candidate, a wish ultimately fulfilled by Marianne Thyssen. Since his announcement as justice chief, he was subject of a corruption probe by public prosecutors that has since concluded. If he survives MEP scrutiny, his main tasks will be to lead work on a comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism and getting the new European Public Prosecutors Office up and running. His hearing was held on 2 October and EP sources later said that Reynders did enough to get the thumbs up.

Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Mariya Gabriel (EPP)

Portfolio: Innovation and Youth

Juncker’s digital chief took over from Kristalina Georgieva, who left her post as vice-president in 2016, and has since done enough in the job to convince Prime Minister Boyko Borissov that she is deserving of another shot. Her new duties will include boosting the Erasmus student exchange programme and concluding work on the Horizon Europe agreement. She faced her committee hearing on 30 September and was later approved.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Dubravka Šuica (EPP)

Portfolio: Vice-President Democracy and Demography

MEP Šuica, now in her second European Parliament mandate,  is a former mayor of Dubrovnik and a vice-president of the EPP. She will be in charge of the Commission’s Conference on the Future of Europe programme and will be Croatia’s first VP since it joined the bloc in 2013. She did enough to convince MEPs at her 3 October hearing.

Update: We previously reported that Šuica had named Vesna Lončarić, a former member of current Commissioner Neven Mimica’s team, to be her head of cabinet. This was an error and EURACTIV was informed that the VP-designate is still assembling her team.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Stella Kyriakides (EPP)

Portfolio: Health

Currently a lawmaker, Kyriakides also served as the president of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. Von der Leyen has tasked the Cypriot with ensuring there are affordable medicines and setting up a “European Health Data Space”. She will also contribute to efforts against food fraud. Her committee hearing was on 1 October and she was approved the day after.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Věra Jourová (Renew)

Portfolio: Vice-President Values and Transparency

Juncker’s current justice chief will be promoted to a vice-president but will not be responsible for rule of law, as previously speculated. Instead, she will help repair bridges between the EU Council and Parliament by looking into transnational lists and shoring up the Spitzenkandidat system. Jourová will also work on media pluralism and the EU’s accession to the charter of human rights. After a successful hearing on 7 October, the Czech candidate was approved by committee.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Margrethe Vestager (Renew)

Portfolio: Executive Vice-President Europe Fit For the Digital Age & Competition

After coming up short in her bid to be Juncker’s successor, Vestager takes on a senior vice-presidency position in von der Leyen’s administration. Currently the bloc’s antitrust boss, the Dane will stick with her current responsibilities and take on new digital-focused duties. That includes working on a new AI strategy, industrial plan and SME plan, as well as a new digital tax. Vestager will also review competition rules, which were heavily criticised by Berlin and Paris following the Alstom-Siemens case. After an impressive hearing, Vestager was quickly approved by committee.

Cabinet chat: Denmark’s EU Ambassador, Kim Jørgensen, will head Vestager’s team. A career diplomat, the 57-year-old has been in Brussels since 2014. The post of cabinet head was previously filled by Ditte Juul-Jørgensen, who moved on to head the Commission’s energy directorate in the summer. 

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog and Vestager wins Parliament support

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Kadri Simson (Renew)

Portfolio: Energy

Initially meant to take over as interim Commissioner after Andrus Ansip took his MEP seat, Estonia’s government decided on 9 September not to insist on having a representative in Juncker’s outgoing executive. She will instead use the time to prepare for her duties under von der Leyen. Her brief includes tasks like boosting renewables and energy efficiency measures, as well as contributing to carbon border tax design and the review of the taxation directive. She was questioned by the EP’s energy committee on 3 October and later given the green light.

Cabinet chat

Simson has announced that Italian official Stefano Grassi will head her team. Currently Federica Mogherini’s right-hand man on EU foreign policy, he also previously served as advisor to former Italian prime ministers Mario Monti and Enrico Letta. Simson told Estonian media that his experience will help reinforce energy negotiations with third party countries. Her decision not to name an Estonian has received criticism from her political opponents but she did name compatriots Peeter Kadarik,  Thor-Sten Vertmann and Jaan Männik in her team.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introduction

 

Jutta Urpilainen (S&D)

Portfolio: International Partnerships

Her nomination quashed any rumours that failed Commission president candidate Alexander Stubb could be parachuted in as Finland’s pick. Urpilainen, a former finance minister, has also worked as a special envoy in Ethiopia. Regarding speculation there would be an Africa Commissioner, Von der Leyen said that such a job could be discriminatory. Her new duties will include working on a comprehensive strategy for Africa though. She faced MEPs on 1 October and did enough to get their approval.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Thierry Breton (Renew) 

Portfolio: Internal Market (also defence and space)

After two Parliament hearings, Sylvie Goulard was rejected by MEPs, 82 votes to 29. Emmanuel Macron later insisted he had warned von der Leyen about the skeletons in the former minister’s closet when proposing three names to her. The French president named former finance minister Thierry Breton on 24 October. An alumnus of Jacques Chirac’s final stint at the Elysee, Breton was up until now head of multinational IT company Atos. French government officials say that von der Leyen has agreed to preserve the portfolio originally attributed to Goulard, which sets up an interesting showdown at the Parliament, given that MEPs were concerned about the scope of duties affixed to the job. On 29 October, von der Leyen confirmed Breton’s candidacy. The Parliament’s legal affairs committee narrowly gave him the green light on 12 November, 12 votes in favour and 11 against. A successful full hearing on 14 November meant he avoided the same fate as Goulard.

Cabinet chat

Fabrice Comptour, an official in Elzbieta Bienkowska’s cabinet, will lead up Breton’s team.

📝 Breton hearing roundup I: liveblog

📝 Breton hearing roundup II: Breton avoids same fate as Sylvie Goulard

🎥 Breton hearing introduction

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background on Thierry Breton

📝 Background on portfolio

📝 Goulard hearing roundup I: Goulard given rough ride by Parliament

📝 Goulard hearing roundup II: Why Goulard was rejected 

🎥 Goulard hearing introduction

Ursula von der Leyen (EPP)

After securing a narrow majority from the European Parliament to lead the Commission for the next five years, von der Leyen is the institution’s first female president.

Cabinet chat – Jens Flosdorff will head up comms for the von der Leyen cabinet. He currently leads the incoming president’s transition team. A journalist in a previous life, the German official has held several government positions that have involved working with von der Leyen. The president-elect has also named Jivka Petkova as coordination and administration director, Peteris Ustubs, the EU’s ambassador to Canada, as diplomatic adviser and Kurt Vandenberghe as Green Deal tsar. Anthony Whelan will advise her on digital affairs.

📝 Background

🎥 Highlights of Commission announcement

Margaritis Schinas (EPP)

Portfolio: Vice-President Promoting Our European Way of Life

A mainstay of the Commission press room thanks to his role as chief spokesperson, Schinas makes the leap to vice-president. His duties will include migration affairs, culture and sport. The Greek’s job title has provoked controversy though, with many critics accusing von der Leyen of co-opting the language of the far-right. MEPs wrote to her calling for a change of wording, although EPP chief Manfred Weber lent his full support to the current name. Although Schinas received enough backing during a 3 October hearing, non-EPP MEPs remained adamant the job title must change. On 13 November, the Commission agreed to change the title from ‘protecting’ to ‘promoting’.

📝 Parliament hearing background: Schinas puts in good performance, MEPs insist on name change

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background on nomination

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Olivér Várhelyi (EPP – suspended) 

Portfolio: Neighbourhood and Enlargement

On 26 September, the JURI committee voted not to allow the initial Hungarian candidate to proceed to his full hearing, citing a conflict of interest. Budapest named EU ambassador Olivér Várhelyi in his stead and on 29 October, von der Leyen confirmed Várhelyi’s candidacy. The legal affairs committee unanimously gave him the green light on 12 November to proceed to his committee hearing. MEPs were unimpressed by the Hungarian’s offering though and demanded replies to further written questions. Those proved to be sufficient and he became the final piece of the puzzle on 18 November.

📝 Parliament hearing: liveblog 

📝 Background on rejection

📤 Mission letter 

🎥 Introductory remarks

Phil Hogan (EPP)

Portfolio: Trade

The bloc’s agriculture tsar is staying in Brussels as trade chief, where he will aim to conclude ongoing negotiations, reform the WTO and help set up a carbon border tax. Depending on the final conclusion of the Brexit saga, he will have to devote time to talks on the future partnership between the two parties. He faced MEPs on 30 September and although he did not do enough to convince the Greens to lend him their support, he still sailed through.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: Hogan convinces MEPs by toughening trade stance

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Paolo Gentiloni (S&D)

Portfolio: Economy

Former PM Paolo Gentiloni was the last name proposed by a national government after political turmoil in Rome delayed the announcement. His main tasks will include monitoring implementation of the stability and growth pact and collaborating on a number of fiscal measures like the carbon border tax and energy taxation review. In his hearing on 3 October he said that Italy would not get any special treatment under his watch. MEPs later said they would back his candidacy. On 13 November, the Commission announced that Gentiloni would also oversee the Sustainable Development Goals.

Cabinet chat: Director-general of ECFIN Marco Buti will be head of cabinet. An experienced European official who has lead the DG from the outset of the financial crisis in the second half of 2008. More details here.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Valdis Dombrovskis (EPP)

Portfolio: Executive Vice-President for an Economy That Works For People & Financial Services

Vice-president for the euro Dombrovskis is also one of the cadre of returning Commissioners. He makes the leap up to executive VP; highlights of his new duties include integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into the European Semester and implementing the Pillar of Social Rights. The Latvian will also be the main link between the Commission and European Investment Bank, which aims to target half of its financing towards climate investments by 2025. Dombrovskis did enough during an 8 October hearing to win another five year spell in the Commission.

Cabinet chat: Euractiv understands that no decision has been made yet.

Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Virginijus Sinkevičius (Greens/EFA TBC)

Portfolio: Environment, Oceans and Fisheries

Lithuania’s 28-year-old economy minister is on course to be the youngest Commissioner ever to take office as well as only the second green representative. Hailing from the Farmers and Greens Party, which is not actually affiliated to its European equivalent, Sinkevičius has faced criticism from his own party colleagues over his lack of experience and is known for keeping a ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap on his desk. As successor to Malta’s Karmenu Vella, he will draft a Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and a new circular economy plan. The environment committee asked him questions on 3 October and later confirmed his candidacy. On 13 November, ‘fisheries’ was added to his portfolio.

Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background 

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Nicolas Schmit (S&D)

Portfolio: Jobs and Social Rights

His nomination was settled by a government deal reached after 2018’s general elections and demonstrates how seriously the Grand Duchy takes its Commissioner appointments. He is tasked with making good on von der Leyen’s pledge to make sure all EU citizens have access to a fair minimum wage. MEPs questioned him on 1 October and he did enough to get their support. On 13 November, ‘social rights’ was added to his job title.

Cabinet chat: Luxembourger Antoine Kassel makes the leap from Juncker’s cabinet, where he served as legal and budgetary adviser, to Schmit’s team leader.

Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Helena Dalli (S&D)

Portfolio: Equality

A former minister for EU affairs and equality, Dalli is tasked with a new portfolio and proposing a European Gender Strategy. She faced MEPs on 2 October and was given the green light, although there were “reservations”.

Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Frans Timmermans (S&D)

Portfolio: Executive Vice-President for European Green Deal & Climate Action

Another also-ran for the Commission top job, Timmermans was promised a senior vice-presidency role, similar to his current job. He will wear two hats, overseeing all Commissioners responsible for Green Deal issues, as well as serving as climate Commissioner. He is expected to propose a new climate law within the first 100 days of the Commission, including the pending net-zero 2050 emissions target.

Cabinet chat: Former Dutch Labour Party leader Diederik Samsom will head up Timmermans’ staff. A former journalist and Greenpeace activist, Samson will be the point-man on the Green Deal work.

Parliament hearing roundup: Timmermans talks the talk in EP hearing

📤 Mission letter

📝 Background

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks 

Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR)

Portfolio: Agriculture

Krzysztof Szczerski (ECR), the head of President Andrej Duda’s cabinet, withdrew his name from consideration on 26 August, revealing that he was set to be offered the agriculture portfolio, a sector in which he has little experience. The government confirmed former MEP Janusz Wojciechowski as their new pick on the same day. The weekend ahead of the final Commissioner list confirmation, it was revealed that he is now the subject of an inquest by anti-corruption authority OLAF but on 28 September the official tweeted that they had been wrapped up. Concluding talks on CAP reform would be his main task. MEPs were nonplussed with his performance at the 1 October hearing and they decided on 7 October to schedule another hearing the following day with the candidate. Wojciechowski chose to speak in his native language that time and his extra commitment to detail eventually won him approval.

Cabinet chat

Maciej Golubiewski, a diplomat currently posted in New York, will head up Wojciechowski’s team.

Parliament hearing roundup I: Hogan’s CAP proposal is ‘not the Bible’

Parliament hearing roundup II: Not lost in translation, Wojciechowski gets nod

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Elisa Ferreira (S&D)

Portfolio: Cohesion and Reforms

Respecting von der Leyen’s request for one male and one female name, Prime Minister Antonio Costa initially proposed current MEP Pedro Marques and former MEP Elisa Ferreira to take over from Carlos Moedas. Costa confirmed on 27 August that Ferreira is Portugal’s sole pick. She will be charged with designing and proposing a new Just Transition Fund to help poorer regions adapt to the energy transition. MEPs questioned her on 2 October and the REGI committee later decided to sanction her candidacy.

Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing introductory remarks

Adina-Ioana Vălean (EPP)

Portfolio: Transport 

On 26 September, the JURI committee voted not to allow Rovana Plumb to proceed to her full hearing. After initially proposing Dan Nica as a replacement, the government was toppled by a vote of no-confidence on 10 October. As opposition forces fail to put together a working alternative, the caretaker administration named former MEP Victor Negrescu on 29 October as the new candidate. However, the day after, the Commission said his candidacy was not under consideration, after Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said acting PM Viorica Dancila did not have the right to make the nomination. After the country’s parliament backed a minority EPP-affiliated government on 4 November, MEPs Siegfried Mureșan and Adina-Ioana Vălean were nominated, with the female candidate getting the nod. She then endured a tough hearing on 14 November but did just enough to get the green light from the committee.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: liveblog

📝 Background on rejection: Romania and Hungary fall at first hurdle

📝 Background on government collapse: EPP to push for Muresan as Commissioner 

📝 Background on failed nomination: Romania relies on fifth time lucky

📤 Mission letter

 

Maroš Šefčovič (S&D)

Portfolio: Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight

The Slovak official is staying in Brussels for yet another spell as Commissioner, in the wake of unsuccessful attempts at the Commission and Slovak presidency. Currently a vice-president overseeing the Energy Union, Šefčovič will remain a VP and take on duties he is familiar with from his first stint in Brussels. His passion project, the European battery alliance, will remain under his oversight. He faced MEPs in the first hearing held on 30 September and was generally believed to have put in a strong performance. Šefčovič was later approved by the committee.

Cabinet chat 

The current head of the VP’s team, Juraj Nociar, is set to stay on in his role. Manuel Szapiro will be second in command.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

Janez Lenarčič (Renew)

Portfolio: Crisis Management

Lenarčič, a career diplomat, was unaffiliated but EURACTIV understands he will join the liberal Renew Europe group. He will coordinate work improving the EU’s response to natural disasters and emergencies, set to become more important as climate change has a more noticeable impact on the continent. The Slovenian candidate faced MEPs on 2 October, in what was considered an impressive performance. He later got the green light from the development committee.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing remarks

 

Josep Borrell (S&D)

Portfolio: High-Representative

Borrell landed the bloc’s high representative job as part of the Council’s protracted top job talks. His nomination is not free of controversy though, given his previous diplomatic blunders, the Catalan issue and his age. His position as high-rep was assured after the Council gave their blessing but his appointment as a Commission VP was not guaranteed ahead of a Parliamentary hearing on 7 October. In what was a cordial affair in the end, Borrell managed to get the approval of MEPs.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📥 Letter from von der Leyen to Donald Tusk on appointment

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing introduction

Ylva Johansson (S&D)

Portfolio: Home Affairs

Employment Minister Johansson is “someone to get the job done”, according to von der Leyen. She will take over some duties from current Greek Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. Her main task will be to relaunch asylum reform efforts and make sure there are legal migration routes to the EU. Johansson’s services will also tackle terrorist content online and radicalisation. After an underwhelming hearing on 1 October, the Swede submitted written replies to questions and MEPs belatedly waved her through on 8 October.

Cabinet chat: Sweden’s former deputy perm-rep, Åsa Webber, will head up Johansson’s team.

📝 Parliament hearing roundup: live blog

📤 Mission letter

🎥 Hearing replay and introductory remarks

TBC – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s insistence that the UK will still leave the EU means that there is no name on the table, despite the previous assumption that unaffiliated diplomat Julian King would stay on if the UK’s membership extended into the mandate of the new Commission. Von der Leyen asked the UK on 6 November to nominate two names, one male, one female, as soon as possible. On 11 November, the British government said that it would stick to its legal obligations but on 13 November said it would not nominate a candidate, citing election rules as an obstacle. The Commission then decided to launch an infringement procedure against the UK.

📝 UK officially declines to name new EU Commissioner

📝 UK set to backtrack and name EU Commissioner

 

Secretary-General of the Commission – Following the departure of Martin Selmayr, the EU executive will need a new senior civil servant and will be keen to avoid the scandal that accompanied Selmayr’s time in office. The seat is currently being kept warm by Latvia’s Ilze Juhansone, who may be appointed on a more permanent basis. 

Spokespeople – Commission official Eric Mamer, a director in the industry DG, will head up the comms unit. He takes over a position vacated by Margaritis Schinas and made his first appearance in the press room on 4 November, alongside incumbent Mina Andreeva. Romanian official Dana Spinant will serve as his deputy.

Twitter info – A full list of the Commissioner-delegates that use Twitter can be accessed here. Feel free to subscribe

 

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