New European Commission – Who’s in and who’s out?

New European Commission – Who’s in and who’s out?

July 2019

In this article, Grayling’s European Public Affairs network has looked into what the new European Commission could look like. Ahead of the nomination of all candidates, below is a review of the most likely national candidates and the portfolios they’re most likely to get.

In Bulgaria…

The Bulgarian government supports the incumbent Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel. Although it hopes to retain this portfolio, this is not highly likely. The government is also lobbying for a portfolio related to border security and migration from the Middle East and Africa. Bulgaria is one of the countries on the EU border that is targeted by illegal migration.

Since Gabriel has sufficient background it that area too, she is the most likely candidate to be put forward by the government. As Vice-President of the EPP Group, Gabriel chairs the EPP’s Euromed Working Group and is responsible for maintaining the group’s relations with countries from the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa regions on priority issues such as migration, security, the fight against terrorism and radicalisation, conflict prevention, and women’s rights. As a former member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, she focused her activities on the EU’s migration policy, Schengen, visa liberalisation agreements with third countries, security issues, the fight against terrorism, and human trafficking. She also followed topics related to FRONTEX and the EU’s entry-exit system.

There are rumours that former EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva may be in line for a position in the new European Commission, but she has denied this. Georgieva currently serves as CEO of the World Bank and is likely to only accept a position in the new European Commission as President, which so far is not possible for this mandate.

Author: Petar Valkov –

In Croatia…

Almost a month has passed since the rather colourful EU election results, and the buzz is continuing. Current Croatian Commissioner Neven Mimica, from the S&D, certainly won’t be re-appointed, and the decision on who to replace him is in EPP Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s hands. It certainly doesn’t help Mimica that he was voted 2nd worst Commissioner in the current administration.

A couple of months ago, the most likely candidate was the Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds Gabrijela Zalac, but being caught without a valid driver’s license and hitting a little girl damaged her reputation and probably ended her chances of being appointed to the new European Commission.

The most prominent candidate as of now is MEP Dubravka Suica from the EPP who would have to leave her MEP seat to Suncana Glavak. This way her EPP-affiliated party HDZ would strengthen its EU position without losing anything back home. Worth remembering too that Plenkovic will need to re-shuffle his government after the current Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejcinovic-Buric was elected the new Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. Pejcinovic-Buric is the first Croatian to hold a significant European position which may open many doors for the future. Hence, it can be assumed that Plenkovic will look to avoid losing another minister to the EU.

Dubravka Suica profile:

  • Serving her 2nd MEP mandate and is one of the most stable HDZ European personalities
  • For eight years she was the Mayor of Dubrovnik, one of the most recognized European cities
  • She is known to drift to the far-right of her party and has made questionable comments about burkas on social media

Another name which is brought up is State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Andrea Metelko Zgombic who is an independent candidate and viewed as a counterbalance to the far-right tendencies of the HDZ.

Author: Bojan Jovanovic –

In Italy…

The current government is made up of two parties: the right-wing League and the left-wing 5 Star Movement (M5S). The League achieved very positive results in the EU elections with 34% of the votes cast. However, both parties within the European Parliament form part of two minority groups. The League, which joined the ENF in the last parliamentary term, is now a member of the Identity and Democracy Group. The M5S, which was a member of the EFDD group, is now among the non-attached members.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has elected its President, the Italian socialist David Sassoli – not surprisingly, a member of the S&D Group.

The debate in Italy now shifts to the composition of the European Commission. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says that Italy will obtain a Vice-President of the European Commission and a Commissioner of economic relevance, such as competition, trade, or industry.

To date, the debate on Italy’s contribution to the next European Commission has been dominated by the League party. The name of the Secretary of the Council of Ministers Giancarlo Giorgetti, right-hand man of League Chairman Matteo Salvini, has been put forward, but with the passing of time this theory seems to be less likely.  

Firstly, Giorgetti has a key role in the Italian government and is something of a problem-solver. His presence in Rome is therefore critical.

There are rumours that the League has other candidates for the role, such as Giulio Tremonti, former Minister of Finance, Giampiero Massolo, President of the shipbuilding company Fincantieri, Domenico Siniscalco, former Minister Finance and now at Morgan Stanley, Franco Frattini, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice during the first Barroso Presidency, and Gian Marco Centinaio, currently Minister of Agriculture.

In short, the scenario is still far from be clear – watch this space!

Author: Giulia Beninati –

In Poland…

Candidates for Commissioners representing Poland still at an early stage

Discussions around Poland’s nominee for the European Commission are still at a very early stage. The list of candidates is a result of political games within the ruling camp, reflecting the ambitions of individual politicians. Names pop up and the disappear quickly, which makes it difficult to assess probabilities.

The candidate for Polish Commissioner must be accepted by MEPs and the ruling party headquarters, which may become problematic in the context of former disagreements between the Polish ruling camp and EU leaders. Thus, one of the strong candidates – Beata Szydło, ex-Prime Minister and new MEP who got a record number of votes in the EU elections – is said to have rejected the offer.

Polish commissioner will be an experienced member of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) or a technocrat

Politicians representing the government say Poland will aim for one of the important Commissioner portfolios – energy and climate, agriculture, or competition. Candidates include current Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology, Jadwiga Emilewicz, and Minister of Investment and Development, Jerzy Kwieciński. Emilewicz could take the position of Energy or Climate Commissioner and Jerzy Kwieciński Competition Commissioner. Although they are likely to be accepted for these roles, neither belong to the close circle of Law and Justice leadership, which weakens their chances.

MEPs Tomasz Poręba and Adam Bielan have also long been in the running. Both are loyal members of the ruling party, are appreciated by its leaders, and have significant experience in working for European institutions. Poręba used to be Head of PiS’s political campaigns and has already worked in the European Parliament as Law and Justice spokesperson. Bielan has been an MEP for a few mandates and is highly appreciated by the PiS leadership.

Author: Katarzyna Cyrbus –

In Slovakia…

The main Slovak candidate for the European Commission is Maroš Šefčovič, who has been a member since October 2009 when he replaced the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figeľ.

Afterwards, Šefčovič was twice a European Commissioner – first, the Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration (2010-2014) and then Vice-President for the Energy Union (2014-2019).

He is supported by the social democratic party, SMER-SD, an S&D member. He is a former Slovak diplomat who has served in Zimbabwe (1991-1992) and Canada (1992).

From 1993 he was at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and in 1997 became Deputy Director and later Director. In 1999 he was appointed Ambassador to Israel and then Permanent Representative to the EU (2004-2009). In 2019 he ran for the Slovak Presidency but lost in the second round against the liberal candidate, Zuzana Čapútová.

After Andrus Ansip stood down to take up his position in the European Parliament, Šefčovič took over his Digital Single Market portfolio.   

According to the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, Šefčovič would be a good replacement for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini, although this now looks unlikely after the Spanish Socialist Josep Borrell was proposed as a candidate for this position by the European Council.  

Author: Andrej Koptak –

In Slovenia…

Slovenia is still without EU Commissioner candidates

Discussions on how to choose and whom to propose for the EU Commissioner were already taking place before the elections. More than a month after the EU elections, the debate, which is still ongoing, has not yielded any EU Commissioner candidates, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It is only known that the previous Slovenian EU Commissioner Violeta Bulc (SMC), who was responsible for transport, won’t be among the candidates – it’s not clear why.

This time the Slovenians must pay more attention to the selection of candidates so as not to repeat the debacle from a few years ago. What happened to Alenka Bratušek (SAB), the former Prime Minister, was about as brutal as it can get as she was the only Commissioner-designate to be rejected from the Juncker Commission. From the moment the former Prime Minister was proposed, a chain of events was set in motion that – combined with what many described as a worryingly weak performance during the committee hearing – could only end in a disaster.

Her successor Violeta Bulc, who was approved, was nominated by Miro Cerar (SMC), at that time Prime Minister of Slovenia and was also highly criticised because of her esoteric views on necromancy – she also studied shamanism and was a trained fire walker. Many describe her as not your average European Commissioner on the grounds of her special interests. Nevertheless, she convinced the Juncker Commission with her performance at the committee hearing, and her work as EU Commissioner was satisfactory.

All’s well that ends well. Let’s see who will be among the Slovenian EU Commissioner candidates, hoping that Slovenia’s reputation will not be tarnished with other debacles…

Author: Iris Horvat –

In Sweden…

Sweden has so far only had women EU Commissioners, a trend that is set to continue as the Swedish Government looks to replace Cecilia Malmström who has served as a Commissioner since 2010.

Ylva Johansson, the current Minister for Employment, is the most likely candidate.

She’s an experienced politician and became known as one of the youngest MPs in Sweden when she was elected as a 24-year-old to the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament). She took up her first post as Minister of Education in 1994, a post she was later forced to resign in 1998 after she and Finance Minister Erik Åsbrink publicly revealed that they had a relationship. She’s a big football fan and has even chaired the Stockholm Football Association. In 2018, Johansson was elected honorary member of the Stockholm football club Hammarby.

Having held the Trade portfolio since 2014, Sweden is this time reportedly eyeing a portfolio related to internal market, environment, or digital affairs. However, a portfolio closely connected to Johansson’s experience in employment would also be desirable for the Social Democratic government.

Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Trade and former Minister for EU Affairs, has also been mentioned as a candidate. She’s well-connected in Brussels, having worked there previously as the Head of the International Department of the European Socialist Party but is seen by many as too undiplomatic on trade issues, a trait that most likely will not be well received in Brussels.

Authors: Christian Jebsen & Annika Sundström