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#EUstrivesformore - President-elect von der Leyen unveils her 'geopolitical Commission'



Ursual von der Leyen addressed the European Parliament, July 2019

Today (10 September), President-elect Ursula von der Leyen (VDL) presented her team and the new structure of the next European Commission college. The new structure reflects the priorities and ambitions set out in the Political Guidelines that received broad support from the European Parliament in July, writes Catherine Feore.

VDL wants the EU to lead on a “transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world”. But she is keen to emphasize that no one should be left behind. In some ways she has adopted the language of Macron and a Europe that protects. She referred to creating opportunities for all wherever they live, their gender, their age.  

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: "We will take bold action against climate change, build our partnership with the United States, define our relations with a more self-assertive China and be a reliable neighbour, for example to Africa. This team will have to stand up for our values and world-class standards. My Commission will be a geopolitical Commission committed to sustainable policies. And I want the European Union to be the guardian of multilateralism. Because we know that we are stronger by doing together what we cannot do alone."

The President-elect repeatedly referred to the new Commission as “a geopolitical Commission”.  

Earlier this year, the European Council on Foreign Relations commissioned YouGov to carry out surveys covering more than 60,000 people across Europe, the study found that European citizens appear to be more enthusiastic about the EU taking on a stronger geopolitical role than reflected by the current EU policies.  

ECFR - European Council on Foreign Relations

There will be three executive vice presidents (Vestager, Dombrovskis, Timmermans) and a further five vice presidents, including the High Representative, Josep Borrell. That makes a rather top-heavy eight vice presidents.  

Three executive vice presidents will have a double function. They will be both vice president responsible for one of three core topics of the President-elect's agenda and Commissioners. 

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans (Netherlands) will co-ordinate the work on the European Green Deal. He will also manage climate action policy, supported by the Directorate-General for Climate Action. 

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said Europe’s Green Deal would become Europe’s hallmark: "Those who act first and fastest will be the ones who grasp the opportunities from the ecological transition. I want Europe to be the front-runner. I want Europe to be the exporter of knowledge, technologies and best practice."

Timmermans is a First Vice President in the current Commission, in his current position he has been a strong advocate for and defender of the rule of law and the EU's fundamental values.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (Denmark) will co-ordinate our whole agenda on a Europe fit for the digital age. That the EVP will retain her role as the Commissioner for Competition, was met with surprise. 

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: "We have to make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty."

Big tech will be concerned by this assertion of a need for technological sovereignty. Vestager’s decisions as Competition Commissioner in the current mandate angered many of these companies, as well as the EU’s work on data protection, copyright and digital sales tax riled those companies who felt that the EU was unfairly focusing on them.  

Valdis Dombrovskis will become the executive vice president for 'An Economy that Works for People' which will be a continuation of his current role, but without Pierre Moscovici to upstage him.  His role will cover financial services, supported by the Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. 

President-elect Ursula von der Leyen said: "We have a unique social market economy. It is the source of our prosperity and social fairness. This is all the more important when we face a twin transition: climate and digital. Valdis Dombrovskis will lead our work to bring together the social and the market in our economy."

The five other vice presidents

Josep Borrell (Spain, current Spanish Foreign Minister): HR/VP-designate, A Stronger Europe in the World; 

Věra Jourová (Czech Republic, commissioner in the Juncker Commission): Values and Transparency; 

Margaritis Schinas (Greece, former MEP, long-serving official of the European Commission): Protecting our European Way of Life; 

Maroš Šefčovič (Slovakia, vice president in the Juncker Commission): Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight; 

Dubravka Šuica (Croatia, MEP): Democracy and Demography.  

The other commissioners-designate are:  

Johannes Hahn (Austria) will be in charge of ‘Budget and Administration', and will report directly to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. As a long-serving member of the College, he knows about the importance of nurturing a modern administration.   

Didier Reynders (Belgium), who trained as a lawyer, is a highly experienced former national finance minister, minister for foreign and European affairs and minister of defence. In the new Commission, he will be responsible for ‘Justice' (including the topic of the rule of law).   

Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) is a current European Commissioner. She worked with dedication and energy on the digital portfolio, and is now moving on to create new perspectives for the young generation (‘Innovation and Youth' portfolio).   

Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) is a medical psychologist with many years of experience in the field of social affairs, health and cancer prevention. She will lead the ‘Health' portfolio.   

Kadri Simson (Estonia) is a long-serving member of the Estonian parliament and Minister for Economic Affairs and Infrastructure. She will be in charge of the ‘Energy' portfolio.   

Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) was not only Finance Minister and a long-standing member of the Finnish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee; she has also worked as a special envoy in Ethiopia. She will take over responsibility for ‘International Partnerships'.   

Sylvie Goulard (France), former MEP, is a dedicated and convinced European. As the ‘Internal Market' commissioner, she will lead our work on industrial policy and promote the Digital Single Market. She will also be responsible for the new Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space.   

László Trócsányi (Hungary) is the former minister of justice of Hungary. He will lead the ‘Neighbourhood and Enlargement' portfolio.   

Phil Hogan (Ireland), the incumbent commissioner for agriculture, will bring his experience to the new Commission in the ‘Trade' portfolio.   

Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), former Italian prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, will be sharing his vast experience in the ‘Economy' portfolio.   

Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania), Lithuanian minister for economy and innovation, will be responsible for ‘Environment and Oceans'.   

Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) is bringing his experience from the European Parliament and his service as national minister for Employment and Labour, and will now be responsible for the ‘Jobs' portfolio.   

Helena Dalli (Malta) has dedicated her political life to equality, serving as minister for social dialogue, consumer affairs and civil liberties, and also as a Minister for European Affairs and Equality. She will lead the ‘Equality' portfolio.   

Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) was a long-serving Member of the European Parliament in the Agriculture Committee and is currently a Member of the European Court of Auditors. He will be in charge of the portfolio ‘Agriculture'.   

Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) is currently Vice-Governor of Banco de Portugal. She has been a Member of the European Parliament for many years, and was the Portuguese Minister for Planning and Minister for Environment. She will lead the ‘Cohesion and Reforms' portfolio.   

Rovana Plumb (Romania) is a Member of the European Parliament (Vice-President of the Social and Democrats Group), and is a former national minister of environment and climate change, minister of labour, minister of European funds, minister of education and minister of transport. She will be in charge of the ‘Transport' portfolio.   

Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia) is a Slovenian diplomat. He was secretary of state for European Affairs, and worked closely for several years with the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union. He will be in charge of the ‘Crisis Management' portfolio.   

Ylva Johansson (Sweden) is national minister for employment and also a former minister for schools and minister for health and elderly care and member of the Swedish Parliament. She is also a highly respected expert in the fields of employment, integration, health and welfare. She will lead the ‘Home Affairs' portfolio. 


Rule of law: First Annual Report on the Rule of Law situation across the European Union



The European Commission has today published the first EU-wide report on the rule of law. It includes input from every member state and covers both positive and negative developments across the EU.

The report, including the 27 country chapters, shows that many member states have high rule of law standards, but important challenges to the rule of law exist in the EU. It also reflects relevant developments stemming from the emergency measures taken by member states due to coronavirus crisis.

It covers four main pillars with a strong bearing on the rule of law: national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media pluralism and freedom, and other institutional issues related to the checks and balances essential to an effective system of democratic governance.

More information

Follow the press conference with Vice-President Jourová and Commissioner Reynders live on EbS.

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Electricity interconnectivity

Commission approves prolongation of two Greek measures to support transition towards new electricity market design



The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation for a limited period of two Greek measures, a flexibility mechanism and an interruptability scheme, to support the transition to the new electricity market design. Under the flexibility mechanism, which was initially approved by the Commission on 30 July 2018 (SA 50152), flexible power capacity providers such as gas-fired power plants, flexible hydro plants and demand response operators can obtain a payment for being available to generate electricity or, in the case of demand response operators, for being ready to reduce their electricity consumption.

This flexibility in power capacity will allow the Greek transmission system operator (TSO) to cope with the variability in electricity production and consumption. Under the interruptibility scheme, which was initially approved by the Commission on 07 February 2018 (SA. 48780), Greece compensates large energy consumers for agreeing to be voluntarily disconnected from the network when security of electricity supply is at risk, as happened for example during the gas crisis in the cold winter of December 2016/January 2017.

Greece notified to the Commission its intention to prolong the flexibility mechanism until March 2021, and the interruptibility scheme until September 2021. The Commission assessed the two measures under the Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020.

The Commission found that the prolongation of the two measures is necessary for a limited period of time, in view of the on-going reforms in the Greek electricity market. It also found that the aid is proportionate because the remuneration of beneficiaries is fixed through a competitive auction, and thus avoids overcompensation. On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.56102 and SA.56103.

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Commission approves €26 million German scheme to compensate youth hostels, school country homes, youth education centres and family holiday centres in Bavaria for damages suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak



The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a German scheme to compensate youth hostels, school country homes, youth education centres and family holiday centres in Bavaria for the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants and will compensate the damage suffered up to a maximum of 60% of the loss of revenues incurred by eligible beneficiaries in the period from 18 March 2020 to 31 July 2020.

During this period, the beneficiaries had to close their accommodation facilities due to the restrictive measure that the German authorities implemented to limit the spread of the coronavirus. When calculating the loss of revenue, reductions in costs resulting from income generated during the lockdown (e.g. cancellation fees), as well as possible financial aid granted or actually paid out by public authorities to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak (including aid granted under the measure with case number SA.56974, approved by the Commission in April 2020) will be deducted.

This will ensure that no more than the damage suffered can be compensated. The measure will be funded via the Corona Programme Social Affairs fund of the Free State of Bavaria, which has a total budget of €26 million. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages directly caused by restrictive measures taken due to exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the German scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damages. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules. More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.  The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58464 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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