New faces for top posts in the European Commission.

RB/IF – 09/2019

Newly elected EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has put forward her new team for the European Commission. The two nominees for the Employment and Health portfolios are of particular relevance to the umbrella organisations of Germany’s social insurance system.


Contrary to expectations, Sweden’s Minister for Employment, Ylva Johansson, was not chosen to head up the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion but rather her party colleague Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg), a social democrat. Schmit was Luxembourg’s ambassador to the EU and Labour Minister from 2009 to 2018. He was elected to the European Parliament in May 2019. Schmit was supposed to have become EU Commissioner in 2014, but had to forego his appointment due to Juncker’s election as Commission President.

Von der Leyen articulated her social and employment policy ideas to Mr Schmit in a letter. With regard to social policy, she talks about developing an action plan for the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the introduction of unemployment reinsurance, a stronger priority for the European Social Fund and support for the establishment of the European Labour Authority.

In addition, ways must be found to improve the labour conditions of platform workers. Another focus of Schmit’s mission is to strengthen social security systems in close cooperation with the Member States, especially within the framework of the European Semester.


As expected, Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) will be responsible for health issues. Ms Kyriakides has many years of experience in social affairs, health legislation and advancing the prevention of cancer.

In her letter to Kyriakides, von der Leyen addressed the areas where she wants action taken. These include ensuring the supply of affordable medicines, e-health, and the medical devices Regulation. 

Ms von der Leyen has also made some slight adjustments to the Directorates-General in the European Commission. As presumed and requested, the areas in DG GROW (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) responsible for medical devices and pharmaceuticals will move back to DG SANTE.

This is an important signal for strengthening health issues in the EU and DG SANTE and reflects the requests we have repeatedly made in recent years. DG SANTE thus remains the relevant and unified point of contact for health issues.

Further priorities include the full implementation of the One Health Action Plan against antimicrobial resistance and improved communication on vaccination.

In addition, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is to be further developed in close alignment with the research mission on cancer in the Horizon Europe programme.

Ms von der Leyen also wants to establish a European Health Data Space to promote the exchange of health data as part of e-health, details of which have not yet been given.

Vetting process in European Parliament

Nicolas Schmit and Stella Kyriakides will now have to appear in a parliamentary hearing before the respective members of the Employment Committee and the Health Committee.

These are expected to take place between 30 September and 8 October 2019. During the three-hour hearings, all candidates will have to answer questions from the Committee responsible in their respective fields, only then will they be approved or rejected.