Ursula von der Leyen’s future College of Commissioners is beginning to shape form as all but two – Italy and the UK – of the European Union’s 28 members have nominated candidates for the EU Executive.
Von der Leyen has begun interviewing her future Commissioners and has signalled that this process will not be done in the full view of the media, meaning without readouts for the press. The names that will pass to the next stage of the process – which will include Parliament hearings in September and an MEP vote in October – will be announced as soon as von der Leyen completes her tête-à-têtes with all of the candidates.
It remains to be seen if the von der Leyen Commission will be as political as that of Jean-Claude Juncker. While the EU is no longer in full crisis mode – as it has been for several years, Europe’s most pressing issues, which need immediate action, are remain highly political in character and require a respective approach in their handling.
Incumbent Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn from the European People’s Party (EPP) has been proposed by his government to serve for a third term with the EU executive. Hahn previously served as the Regional Policy Commissioner.
Current Foreign and Defence Minister Didier Reynders of Renew Europe (RE) was in the running to be Commissioner under Jean-Claude Juncker, but passed over for outgoing Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to maintain a gender balance.
European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel (EPP) has been tapped by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as an obvious choice.
Dubravka Šuica (EPP), a former mayor of Dubrovnik and a vice-president of the EPP, is hoping for an economic or enlargement portfolio.
An ex-president of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Cypriot MP Stella Kyriakides (EPP) is expected to unseat the sitting European Commissioner for Human Aid, Development and Civil Protection, Christos Stylianides. She is a clinical psychologist by training and a long-standing campaigner for breast cancer and has worked on health policy issues in Cyprus’ legislature.
The Czech Republic
Věra Jourová (RE) is set for a second term at the European Commission after serving on Juncker’s College as the Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner. Jourova was also in charge of applying pressure to social media platforms such as Facebook to respect the EU’s rules on data protection and platforms such as YouTube to take down channels promoting hate speech and fake news.
Margrethe Vestager (RE) could either keep or expand her current portfolio as a First Vice-President and the EU’s antitrust chief in the next Commission.
Kadri Simson (RE), currently serving as a substitute Commissioner without a portfolio after Andrus Ansip’s MEP election, has hinted that she would like to take an economic portfolio after her meeting with von der Leyen on Wednesday.
The nomination of Jutta Urpilainen from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) is a former finance minister and has already met with von der Leyen.
Sylvie Goulard (RE), an ex-MEP, briefly served as a defence minister before resigning over a scandal involving European Parliamentary assistants. Goulard has hinted that she would like to become the new Directorate-General for Defence.
Ursula von der Leyen (EPP) is set to replace Juncker as the president of the European Commission on 1 November, becoming the first female head of the EU executive.
Juncker’s ex-spin doctor Margaritis Schinas (EPP) is new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ choice to represent Greece in an unspecified capacity during von der Leyen’s term.
László Trócsányi (EPP), an ex-Justice Minister for Viktor Orbán and a current MEP, is expected to have a difficult series of talks during the hearings, due to the Hungarian government’s poor relations with Brussels. No portfolio allocation has been yet decided for Trócsányi, despite his meeting with von der Leyen on 28 August.
The current European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan (EPP) is set to serve for a second tern in Brussels under a different portfolio. Taking into account his contribution in FTA negotiations that involved complicated agricultural files, Hogan is set to become the bloc’s new Trade Commissioner.
The current Vice-President for the Euro, Valdis Dombrovskis (EPP), has been chosen to return to the College of Commissioners.
28-year-old Virginijus Sinkevičius (Greens/EFA) could end up being an independent member of the College due to his own political beliefs, which have been at odds with the Greens’ leader, Ska Keller.
MEP Nicolas Schmit (S&D) has already had two meetings with von der Leyen, which suggest that the talks have been constructive. Schmit previously served as Minister-Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, working under Jean Asselborn as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
While the precise portfolio still remains unclear, Karmenu Vella’s successor is set to be Helena Dalli (S&D), who was already interviewed by von der Leyen on 27 August. She is the second most elected woman in Maltese political history and drafting of the Gender Equality Bill with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme.
Frans Timmermans (S&D) has secured a second term as a First Vice-President of the Commission. Dutch sources suggest that the country would like to keep a similar portfolio to Timmermans’ current mandate, eyeing rule of law.
Poland’s initial candidate, Krzysztof Szczerski of the European Conservatives and Reformists(ECR), as well as the head of President Andrzej Duda’s cabinet, withdrew his candidacy after his first meeting with von der Leyen after the latter said she would offer him an agricultural portfolio. Szczerski acknowledged his lack of experience in this field, leaving Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR), who previously served as Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, as Warsaw’s candidate to become Agriculture Commissioner.
Elisa Ferreira (S&D) was proposed by Portugal in an effort to meet von der Leyen’s call for a gender balanced College of Commissioners. An economist by training, she is the current Vice-Governor of the Bank of Portugal.
Bucharest has tabled two names, Dan Nica and Rovana Plumb (both of the S&D) as candidates to replace Corina Creţu. Nica is a former Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Minister of Administration and Interior; Plumb is vice-chair of the S&D Group and Minister of Labour, Family, Social Protection and Elderly.
The Commission’s current Vice-president for Energy, Maroš Šefčovič (S&D), has secured a second term in the EU Executive.
From diplomacy to the Commission, Janez Lenarčič, Slovenia’s ambassador to the EU is the country’s pick for the College. A career diplomat, Lenarčič will not be politically affiliated as a Commission member.
Josep Borrell (S&D) has been nominated to serve as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. A Catalan who is known as an outspoken opponent of regional secessionism, Borrell is expected to handed additional responsibilities involving humanitarian aid, support of development policies in Africa, and the external dimension of immigration.
Set to take over from current Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, Ylva Johansson (S&D) is one of Sweden’s most experienced ministers having served as Minister of Labour and Employment where she was responsible for one of the government’s top priorities.