The Juncker Commission, the Return of Politics?

Written by | Friday, January 9th, 2015

The designation of the Juncker Commission was different from the others. Previously, portfolios had been seized only after a fight among member countries’ governments. This time, however, a concept of “Spitzenkandidaten” has been utilized. This mechanism was designed to encourage the Member States to suit Junker’s demand that more women be represented in the Commission. As a result, the Member States aimed for a significant portfolio by proposing a woman candidate.

Jean-Claude Juncker is a longstanding and well-experienced European politician and, similarly, the politicians sitting in the Commission are renowned for their expertise in the area of economy or international relations. One third of the Commission’s members even ran in the European Parliament election which could partially increase the legitimacy of the Commission. The political affiliation of the Commissioners then reflects the composition of the Parliament. In comparison to the Barroso Commission, the number of women remained the same, though they now occupy more significant portfolios.

Juncker aspires to reorganize the functioning of the College of Commissioners by bringing more politics back into the decision-making process. His first counselor on the matter is a Dutchman, Frans Timmermans, who serves as the First Vice President and as the Commissioner for Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights. His main objective will be to ensure that the EU deals merely with European affairs and leaves the national ones to the Member States.

The new Commission has altogether seven Vice Presidents, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. These are responsible for priority projects which include building the Energy Union, supporting employment and growth, unified digital market, stronger Europe on the international scene, etc. The Vice Presidents must also oversee and coordinate the work of the other Commissioners related to these projects. There is thus certain interdependence there: The Commissioners need the support of a Vice President in advocating their agenda for the College of Commission’s work program, while the Vice President is dependent on the work of the Commissioners in order to accomplish the entrusted priority task. Nonetheless, some see the unclear distribution of powers and responsibility as a problem in the newly-established mode of operation of the new Commission.

Since 1 November 2014, the internal communication of the Commission has radically changed as well. It is now directly in the competence of the President’s office and the chief spokesperson of the Commission. While the other Commissioners have their own spokesperson, they are not authorized to speak on the behalf of their respective Commissioner, nor the whole Commission.
(The study can be downloaded here:

Charles de Marcilly (Robert Schuman Foundation)

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