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27.11.2019 Europe

EU Commission chief gets green light for new executive team

By RFI
REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
NOV 27, 2019 EUROPE

Incoming president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has been given approval for her new team of 27 with a comfortable parliamentary majority ahead of the beginning of their mandate on 1 December.

It has not been an easy path getting this far for von der Leyen, who had hoped to take office a month ago, but was thwarted by wrangling over the membership of her executive team.

Three of her initial nominees to the commission were rejected during the parliamentary confirmation process – an unprecedented snub – weakening her authority from the outset.

Her own appointment, to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the commission was approved in July in a secret ballot, with only nine votes more than she needed, – a narrow margin in EU politics.

But on Wednesday, the European Parliament in Strasbourg gave the former German defence minister a 461 to 157 vote of confidence.

Addressing parliament earlier, von der Leyen endeavoured to strike an upbeat note, stressing the need for a "new start" for Europe.

"Our union will embark on transformation that will touch every part of our society and economy and we will do it because it will be the right thing to do, not because it will be easy."

As well as promising measures to combat climate change, von der Leyen insisted that Europe has the heft to lead the world in a digital economic revolution.

The commission has members from across the political spectrum, twelve out of 27 of the members are women, the highest number ever in the European Commission.

Britain, which plans to leave the bloc, has refused to put forward a nominee due to the election campaign in progress.

Who are the new EU Parliament representatives?

Climate, farming, fish and energy

  • Netherlands' Frans Timmermans, from the leftist S&D political family, will take charge of the "European Green Deal", one of the new commission's priorities as it seeks to boost the EU's performance on climate change.
  • Poland's Janusz Wojciechowski, agriculture portfolio,
  • Romania's Adina Valean, in charge of transport,
  • Former Estonian economic minister Kadri Simson, energy commissioner,
  • Lithuania's Virginijus Sinkevicius will hold the environment, oceans and fisheries portfolio,

Competition and digital

  • Denmark's Margrethe Vestager keeps the Competition portfolio,
  • France's Thierry Breton, in charge of the single market brief as well as industrial policy, defence spending and space,
  • Bulgaria's Mariya Gabriel, the outgoing commissioner for the digital economy, will be responsible for innovation and youth,

Finance, jobs, economy and trade

  • Latvia's Valdis Dombrovskis, becomes the commissioner for financial services, charged with creating an "economy that works for people",
  • Italy's Paolo Gentiloni, economy commissioner,
  • Luxembourg's employment commissioner Nicolas Schmit,
  • Portugal's Elisa Ferreira of Portugal, takes charge of "cohesion and reforms",
  • Ireland's Phil Hogan, takes over trade and negotiating the post-Brexit relationship with Britain,

Foreign affairs, development and EU enlargement

  • Spain's veteran foreign minister Josep Borrell takes charge of EU diplomacy as high representative for foreign policy and vice-president,
  • Hungary's Oliver Varhelyi, will manage relations with prospective new EU member countries,
  • Finland's Jutta Urpilainen, takes international development,
  • Slovenian Janez Lenarcic, the new civil protection and humanitarian relief commissioner,

'Way of life', health, equality

  • Greek Margaritis Schinas's "promoting our European way of life" brief covers migration, security and education. The job title was changed from "protecting our European way of life" after complaints it smacked of far-right populism,
  • Cyprus's Stella Kyriakides takes the health portfolio,
  • Malta's Helena Dalli gets equality,
  • Sweden's Ylva Johansson will look after home affairs,

Justice, transparency

  • Czech Vera Jourova, will be responsible for "values and transparency",
  • Former Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders will be justice commissioner,

Others

  • Austria's Johannes Hahn, the outgoing neighbourhood and enlargement commissioner, takes the budget portfolio,
  • Slovakia's Maros Sefcovic, in charge of inter-institutional relations,
  • Croatia's Dubravka Suica, the former mayor of Dubrovnik, gets the "democracy and demography" portfolio.

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