France seeks top EU portfolio, not gender balance

Juncker and Hollande

François Hollande and Pierre Moscovici (right) in 2012 [François Hollande/Flickr]

Paris seeks to obtain the economic and monetary affairs portfolio in the new European Commission and has less interest in ensuring gender balance in the EU executive. EURACTIV France reports.

9 Female EU Commissioners signed a letter supporting a call by Jean-Claude Juncker for member dtates to nominate at least 10 women for the next Commission.

During the previous legislation, only nine women from 28 EU member states were chosen to be commissioners. Ten is less than full gender parity, which is advocated by the political parties. It would mean 14 female commissioners, 13 male commissioners and Jean-Claude-Juncker.

>> Read:  Juncker wants more women in new Commission team

According to Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for education and signatory of the letter to Juncker, female commissioners “fear that the next Commission won’t have enough female members”. She supports Juncker’s moves to give women a greater voice in the European executive body.

France has not sent a woman to the Commission since 1999

The question of gender parity may play a role in France, where Pervenche Berès and Elisabeth Guigou are pitted against Pierre Moscovici and Jean-Marc Ayrault to become the next commissioner.

When Juncker stood in front of the Socialists in the European Parliament, he made two promises. First, he said he would respect gender balance within the Commission. Second, he promised that Olli Rehn’s last job, the economic and monetary affairs portfolio, would be given to a Socialist.

Pervenche Bérès responded with caution, saying “we must not draw any conclusions between the two pieces of information.”

“France has not had a female EU commissioner since Édith Cresson in 1999 and since all large member states have had commissioners that perfectly exercised their responsibilities, so I think there is a question mark over the next French commissioner,” she said to the European Parliament.

Portfolio comes first

The name or gender of the next commissioner is not the order of the day in Paris, as the French government focuses on getting the most sought-after portfolio.

“France’s interests are in getting the economic portfolio,” said the Élysée Palace. Yet, this does not make the selection of the next commissioner any easier. Pervenche Berès would make a great Commission for Energy thanks to her experience working on sustainable energy, whereas Pierre Moscovici, who is clearly motivated by macroeconomic issues, would not settle for less than the economic and monetary affairs job.

It is possible that Juncker, who spoke last week with both Moscovici and Berès, may offer France a different portfolio, like energy or transport. This is supported by some members of the French government, who believe that it would look bad if a French person was giving France orders regarding national debt or austerity. The energy portfolio would be easier for France to deal with.

Talks should resume after the European Parliament vote on Juncker as President of the EU Commission on 15 July.

>> Read: The EU top jobs: Who’s next?

The President of the Commission is elected by the Parliament by a majority of its members, on a proposal of the European Council acting by qualified majority. The choice of the candidate for the Presidency of the Commission should take account of the results of the elections in the European Parliament.

In consultation with the President-elect, the Council then adopts the list of the other Members of the Commission. These people are chosen on the basis of suggestions made by the Governments. The Commission is subject, as a body, to a vote of approval of the European Parliament. The College of Commissioners is then formally appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority.

>> Read our LinksDossier EU Top Jobs: Who is next? and topic page EU Top Jobs

  • 5 July: Parliament votes to elect Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission president
  • 16 July: EU leaders gather in Brussels for discussions on the new Commission team
  • Summer: National leaders designate their commissioners to Brussels. New president distributes portfolios within his team of 27 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

Subscribe to our newsletters