European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will undergo surgery on Monday (11 November), meaning that his right hand man, Frans Timmermans, will occupy the EU executive throne on an interim basis.
The Dutchman is on track to lead the Commission for about two weeks, while Juncker recovers from surgery on an aortic aneurysm in his abdomen.
According to the chain of command, as First Vice-President, Timmermans is empowered to take over when his boss is incapacitated. High-representative Federica Mogherini will take on any external matters that may arise.
According to the rules of procedure adopted when Juncker first took office, Slovak official Maroš Šefčovič will take the reins of power in the unlikely eventuality that anything happens to Timmermans in the meantime.
It is almost a matter of ‘what could have been’ for the Commission deputy, after his attempt to take over from Juncker on a permanent basis in the new Commission came up short in July, when Ursula von der Leyen was given the nod instead.
Timmermans was in the frame to get the top job along with his EPP and liberal counterparts, Manfred Weber and Margrethe Vestager, as part of the Spitzenkandidat process.
After EU heads of state and government were unable to broker a compromise on which candidate to back, German defence minister von der Leyen was unexpectedly parachuted in and Spitzenkandidat died a quick death, for the time-being at least.
Timmermans was then promised an executive vice-presidency along with Vestager in the next administration, although that deal was soured for the Dutchman when the EPP’s Valdis Dombrovskis was also elevated to the newly-created position.