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A New European Commission and a New Structure

29 October 2014

A new structure has been introduced by President-elect Jean Claude Juncker in an attempt to give greater impact to the Commission that will take office as from 1st November 2014. The new College will consist of seven Vice-Presidents, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy. Each VP will be in charge of a cluster and will coordinate the work of a number of Commissioners. Under this new system, Commissioners will report to the seven vice presidents, who will lead the seven clusters or project teams.

A major objective of the new structure is to break down silos and to encourage more dynamic interactions and coherence of EU policies and actions. The Vice-Presidents are given an enhanced role. Thus, all new initiatives will need to have received the support of a Vice-President before being added to the Commission Work Programme.

After the Parliamentary hearings, the precise mandate of each VP was revised to take into account inputs from MEPs. For instance, the responsibility for sustainable development has been added to the mandate of the first VP of the Commission, Mr Frans Timmermans. Consequently, the responsibility for coordinating portfolios that impact on sustainable development (including climate and energy) are now vested with the first VP. Indeed, the very composition of the Juncker Commission was being revisited, with Alenka Bratusek, Slovenia’s nominee, and Vice-President-designate for an energy union, withdrawing her candidacy.

The Commissioner who will be responsible for relations with OCTs is Mr Neven Mimica a Croatian politician and diplomat who served as Commissioner for Consumer Protection in the Barroso Commission. As Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, he will be responsible for preparing the Commission and EU positions for the negotiations on the post-2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goal agenda, and for the negotiations to revisit the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)-EU partnership agreement. During his hearing, the Commissioner-elect said: “The world is increasingly interlinked and interdependent, from peace and security, via energy and climate change, to agriculture and trade. Greater coherence between our internal and external policies is therefore a must. And the cooperation we offer our partners can and must extend far beyond pure aid to include science, health, education, gender and youth issues, labour mobility and much more.”

The European Parliament gave its consent to the College of Commissioners on 22 October after a reshuffling of portfolios. The final vote on the College confirmation by the European Council in Brussels should take place on 23 October, to allow the new Commission to start work on 1 November.

According to Karel Lannoo, CEO of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), “Overall, the distribution of portfolios within the new Commission is well balanced, combining appointees from large member states with important Directorates General reporting to designated vice-presidents from smaller member states in charge of a project team….A clear hierarchy is thus in place; the challenge now is to make it work.”

The change in the structure of the Commission College will finally involve only minor changes to the structure of the Commission services, while a regrouping into fewer directorates was expected earlier.