June 23. 2024. 7:25

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Who will be your country’s next EU Commissioner?

With the EU elections approaching fast, member states have started to game out who they will send as their national Commissioner to Brussels, Euractiv takes a closer look at the rumour mill around the candidates, and the portfolio wishes across Europe.

If the EU top job negotiations go according to plan with the new European Commission president selected by July, the designate for the job will have the summer break to compose their College of Commissioners from the candidates nominated by EU member states.

How to be appointed as Commissioner?

In 2019, Ursula von der Leyen asked EU member states to provide her with two names each, male and female, the aim was to create a gender-balanced team.

If she gets the nomination again, this would likely be repeated, said people familiar with the selection process.

Not all are expected to be pleased with such a step — in the previous cycle, some capitals had refused to offer two names and insisted on their prime candidate, a move that showcases how important the envoy to Brussels is for national governments.

Members of her new college are expected to be by definition ‘political colour and country-blind,’ for EU member states the choice of their candidate can have a significant impact.

Governments can send a close ally to the Brussels-based EU executive in the hope of exerting some degree of national influence on the portfolio (see the Agrifood head Janusz Wojciechowski who had been pushing Polish national views during the recent farmers’ protests).

However, national political leaders can also use it as an opportunity to remove domestic rivals, who can otherwise threaten their power (see Competition head Margrethe Vestager, who was seen as a powerful candidate to run for government in her country of Denmark).

Compared to the previous term, where a large number of seasoned Commissioners had repeated their term with a different portfolio, this time around, most of the next College of Commissioners will be complete newcomers to the executive.

Some incumbents have already declared not to run again – EU’s chief diplomat Borrell is retiring, while Justice Commissioner Didier Reydners is applying for the Council of Europe’s head job. Others are highly unlikely to be supported by their national governments, after the governing party changed during their term, such as in Italy.

So allowing the next European Commission boss to start with a ‘clean slate’, but also means that many of the new picks will need to learn the ropes of steering the bureaucracy behind their designated policy area from scratch and the politics of navigating between national and European interests.

It is likely that due to this, von der Leyen will aim to have more experienced candidates, while ‘no-name’ ones are likely to be out of the running, due to lack of government or Brussels experience, people familiar with her thinking said.

Who gets which portfolio?

The next European Commission President-designate is also expected to reshuffle portfolios from their current set-up, deciding which ones will receive an upgrade as Vice-Presidents.

Traditionally, Commission presidents tend to keep their friends (those who supported their candidacy) and enemies (those who might be the biggest opposers) close.

In large countries with the most influence, the original six members of the EU, and long-time serving Commissioners traditionally get assigned the most important portfolios or those they choose.

Smaller member states often get files less in the spotlight, though exceptions exist.

Once the team compilation is complete, the freshly elected members of the European Parliament are expected to hold hearings in the respective policy-related committees to approve or disapprove the candidate.

The process, often highly political, is expected to be more so this time around with a more far-right-leaning composition, according to Europe Elects projections for Euractiv.

In previous electoral cycles, at least one Commissioner-designate was normally rejected. In 2019, Commissioners-designate from Romania and Hungary were axed, citing conflict of interest.

Politically, the move also allowed the European Parliament to assert its role as a powerful institution against EU member states and the European Commission President-nominated.

If refused, the EU member state has sent the candidate asked to come up with a new name.

Once the whole college of Commissioners is formed, the president-nominated by EU leaders must pass the Parliament’s majority vote.

Read more with Euractiv

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