Juncker’s future European Commission: an overall update

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With less than one week left before the deadline, President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker is struggling to make his European Commission look as much politically and gender balanced as possible. Among all Member States, four of them still have to nominate their candidates: Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark and the Netherlands. But the current nominees show a pattern of mostly being men and from right-wing political parties.  

Mr. Juncker has recently stated that he would like to have more women, also promising important portfolios and vice-president seats for Member States who put women forward. Currently, there are nine women Commissioners and it will be probably difficult to match or surpass this number.

On 21 August, a French daily newspaper reported that it is getting more and more likely that Eastern Europe will claim an EU top job for the first time. The favorite candidate would be Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva as next EU Foreign Secretary after Catherine Ashton. However, this scenario would only be possible with backing from Poland, who wants to appoint its Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski to the same post. The French source also declared that a top job for Georgieva (EPP) would make Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thoning-Schmidt (a Socialist woman) a favorite for the Council’s Presidency. With two women getting EU top jobs, Mr. Juncker’s Commission might be less difficultly approved by the Parliament.

The idea of postponing the inauguration of the new Commission by one month (from 1 November), has not been ruled out entirely, but the Commission and the Parliament are studying all scenarios at this stage. On 17 July, the European Council failed to name Ms.  Ashton’s successor but the Heads of State and Government will meet again on 30 August. This EU summit was expected to put together “the full puzzle” of the new Commission, but it will only decide on the successors of the Council President and the EU Foreign Secretary. Mr. Juncker believes that it is not possible to decide on the composition of the future Commission before leaders decide who will succeed Mr. Van Rompuy and Ms. Ashton.

If the summit decides on the two top jobs, Mr. Juncker should come up with a list of Commissioners and of portfolios in the first half of September. After that, the European Parliament’s Committees will have to finalize a questionnaire to be submitted to all designated Commissioner-candidates, who will have to respond and prepare for their hearings. That should happen at the end of September or early October. If none of the candidates is rejected by the Parliament, a vote of investiture will still be possible at the plenary in October. Otherwise, more hearings would have to be held, postponing the final vote to November.

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