Thirteen new faces and nine women were the two vital statistics when Jose Manuel Barroso announced the new European Commission at the end of last week.
However, it doesn’t end there. The new Commission must gain approval from the European Parliament before it takes office for a term running until 31 October 2014.
Commissioners-designate will appear in individual hearings before Parliamentary committees from 11-19 January. The vote of consent on the new Commission as a whole is scheduled to take place on 26 January and on the basis of the vote of consent, the Commission will be appointed by the European Council.
I need hardly remind you that Commissioners are not an automatic shoo-in and the hearings before the European Parliament Committees really do matter. In 2004/5 the Italian Commissioner-designate, the anti-gay rights Rocco Buttiglione, was forced to stand down when the Civil Liberties Committee refused to accept his nomination. The new Commission, therefore, can only start working when all the Commissioners have been approved.
The new College will have 27 members, including President Barroso, one from each Member State. I am very pleased it includes nine women, one-third of the total. Since the Socialist and Democrat Group fought hard for more women Commissioners, it is heartening to see that our efforts have been taken on board.
As proposed by Mr Barroso, the new College will have 7 Vice-Presidents, including Vice-President Baroness Catherine Ashton who will, at the same time, be the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Three of the Vice-Presidents will be women.
The members of the College, of course, come from the different political families represented in the European parliament, notably the European People’s Party (EPP), the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S & D), and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). It is worth noting that the European Conservatives and Reformists, the new Tory group, are not strong enough to have a Commissioner.
It is the job of the President of the European Commission to decide on portfolios and then allocate them to individual Commissioners. President Barroso has announced a number of new portfolios: Climate Action; Home Affairs; Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. He has reconfigured a number of other portfolios: Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth; Health and Consumer Policy; Industry and Entrepreneurship; Research and Innovation; International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. He has also claimed to put new emphasis on inclusion in the Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion portfolio, and a renewed focus with the Digital Agenda portfolio.
Proposed Portfolios of Commissioners-designate
- Joaquín ALMUNIA (Spain): Competition. Vice-President of the Commission.
- László ANDOR (Hungary): Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
- Baroness Catherine ASHTON (UK): High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security and Vice-President of the Commission.
- Michel BARNIER (France): Internal Market and Services.
- Dacian CIOLOS (Romania): Agriculture and Rural Development.
- John DALLI (Malta): Health and Consumer Policy.
- Maria DAMANAKI (Greece): Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
- Karel DE GUCHT (Belgium): Trade.
- Štefan FÜLE (Czech Republic): Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy.
- Johannes HAHN (Austria): Regional Policy.
- Connie HEDEGAARD (Denmark): Climate Action.
- Maire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN (Ireland): Research and Innovation.
- Rumiana JELEVA (Bulgaria): International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
- Siim KALLAS (Estonia): Transport. Vice-President of the Commission.
- Neelie KROES (Netherlands): Digital Agenda. Vice-President of the Commission.
- Janusz LEWANDOWSKI (Poland): Budget and Financial Programming.
- Cecilia MALMSTRÖM (Sweden): Home Affairs.
- Günter OETTINGER (Germany): Energy.
- Andris PIEBALGS (Latvia): Development.
- Janez POTOČNIK (Slovenia): Environment.
- Viviane REDING (Luxembourg): Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Vice-President of the Commission.
- Olli REHN (Finland): Economic and Monetary Affairs.
- Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ (Slovakia): Vice-President of the Commission for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration.
- Algirdas ŠEMETA (Lithuania): Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud.
- Antonio TAJANI (Italy): Industry and Entrepreneurship. Vice-President of the Commission.
- Androulla VASSILIOU (Cyprus): Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.