The main thing to be retained from the structure and the composition of the new EU Commission is its strictly hierarchic and rather rigid structure.
The new College has seven Vice Presidents, six in addition to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs (Federica Mogherini), each leading a project team, or what was earlier called a “cluster”. Examples include ‘Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness’, ‘Digital Single Market’ or ‘Energy Union’.
One of the Vice Presidents, the Dutch Frans Timmermans, who is “First Vice President for better regulation, inter-institutional relations, rule of law and charter of fundamental rights,” will have practically absolute powers, as much as Juncker himself.
He will be able to stop any initiative in the Commission and will have direct access to all DGs and to the human resources of the General Secretariat. He will, actually, be Juncker’s alter ego. As Juncker himself put it in the press conference that followed the presentation of the new college, the two of them will act as duumvirs, the combined presidency of two consuls with equal powers in Ancient Rome.
Under them, six other Vice Presidents with large powers over lower rank Commissioners (five, plus the Italian Mogherini, who, as High Representative, is automatically vice-president).
Led by Juncker from Luxembourg and Timmermans from the Netherlands, with extended powers bestowed upon the Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva and the former prime ministers of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia (plus the Italian Mogherini), the new Commission represents a victory for the smaller states, many of them Eastern European, and for Angela Merkel’s austerity policy.
There is no vice-president from either France, Spain or the UK. On the other hand, a country like Poland got, with Donald Tusk, the presidency of the Council, but has also obtained, with Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the Internal Market and Industry portfolio. France, on the other hand, which fought hard to obtain the Economic and Financial Affairs for Pierre Moscovici, will have its Commissioner kept on a hierarchical and administrative leash, under permanent scrutiny from the duo Katainen-Dombrovskis, approved by Merkel.
The German language is also solidly entering the institutions, including in the press room. German comes naturally to Juncker, thanks to his native Lëtzebuergesch; Martin Selmayr, head of Juncker’s team, is a German backed by Merkel; Germans like Martin Schulz, Manfred Weber and Elmar Brok (leaders of the EU Parliament, of its EPP faction and of its Committee on Foreign Affairs) closely control the Parliament; the new Council president, the Pole Donald Tusk, can manage German, while his English is shaky and he has no French; and German is the language in which Angela Merkel talks with Putin. The decline of French is thus abrupt, although Juncker himself favours French over English, and French is a language that both Timmermans and Mogherini practice well.
Among other notable changes, there is also the disappearance of the Enlargement portfolio. Juncker had already announced — and the general consensus is — that there will be no more enlargement in the next five years. The enlargement portfolio has thus been fusioned with the European Neighbourhood Policy and entrusted to the Austrian Johannes Hahn, previously in charge of Regional Policy, now offered to the controversial Romanian politician Corina Crețu.
After a vote in the Parliament in October, the European Commission will take office on 1 November 2014.
There is not much time left for organising the hearing in parliament, in order to be ready for November. Group leaders and committee chairs in the European Parliament will meet tonight (10 September) to try to reach an agreement on the organisation of the hearing.