Juncker will need to accept replacement Commissioners from Romania, Estonia

File photo. European Comission President Jean-Claude Juncker is welcomed by (unseen) Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne at the House of the Estates (Saaty) in Helsinki, Finland, 5 July 2019. [Mauri Ratilainen/EPA/EFE]

Faced with opposition from the member states, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was unable to block the replacement of the Romanian and Estonian Commissioners, who were elected as MEPs and already took their MEP seats.

The government of Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă has asked to replace Corina Crețu, who served as Commissioner for Regional Policy, with Ioan-Mircea Paşcu, a politician from the ruling social democrat party, who has served as MEP and as defence minister.

Similarly, Estonia has requested the replacement of Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, who also took his MEP seat, with Kadri Simson from the Centre party of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Juncker took the position that outgoing Commissioners who have been elected and accept to become MEPs should not be replaced for the remaining four months of their mandate as this would entail significant costs. Moreover, he put forward a legislative proposal to block the replacement of the two Commissioners.

Juncker tries to block the replacement of Cretu, Ansip

Romania has requested the replacement of its Commissioner Corina Crețu, who was elected as MEP and has taken her seat. To avoid such a replacement, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has put forward a legislative proposal, EURACTIV has learned.

On Tuesday (9 July), Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva said the Commission regretted the Council’s rejection of the proposal not to replace the Commissioners.

This, she said, entailed budgetary consequences. She mentioned the sum of one million euros in terms of pension schemes, cabinet and other costs that might have been saved.

The responsibilities from Ansip’s portfolio were transferred to Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, and those of Crețu to Commissioner Johannes Hahn, Andreeva said.

Nevertheless, Juncker would interview the two candidates in the coming days, the spokesperson said. Asked if this means that they would not get the portfolio of their predecessor, she left room for some flexibility.

She said it was the president’s responsibility to determine the internal organisation of the Commission, and that depended also on the interviews he would have with the two candidates, and their compatibility with Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union.

This article says that “the members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt”.

The two candidate Commissioners will also need to pass an audition in the European Parliament, which would come in handy to the MEPs as a rehearsal for the auditions of the next EU executive after the summer.

EURACTIV believes that Juncker may give modest portfolios to the replacement commissioners. In the past, Commission presidents have usually split existing portfolios and given half of them to newcomers.

But Juncker, as an experienced politician, probably understands that Romania and Estonia, as new EU members, need a Commissioner as a high-level insider in the important period ahead of re-setting the entire EU machinery.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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