Ursula von der Leyen will need political prowess to set up her team right before the finishing line. The EU Parliament is putting hurdles in her way for the last few metres.

UM – 10/2019

The start of the new Commission has been postponed by a month to 1 December. This was decided by the European Parliament in Week 42. The first step is to propose alternative candidates for the internal market, transport, and neighbourhood and enlargement portfolios.


It will also be up to French President Emmanuel Macron to decide when the new Commission can start its work. He blames the President-designate for the defeat of his candidate, Sylvie Goulard. This has been called a ‘political game’, because von der Leyen had been given all relevant personal information. The 54-year-old political scientist was nominated as Commissioner for the Internal Market.

Payback for Macron?

Three parliamentary committees rejected Goulard on 10 October by 82 votes to 29. The French candidate provided more than enough of a target. However, her rejection was probably not just the result of a second job where she was earning a dubious income. Many suspect there were political motives behind her rejection and that it was a reaction to Macron’s rejection of the Spitzenkandidat principle.

This comes at a bad time for von der Leyen. She had expressly supported Goulard’s application, with full knowledge of her pending criminal proceedings in France. There are now three vacancies in the new Commission. Hungary and Romania also had to withdraw at the request of the Legal Affairs Committee.

Time heals all wounds

There are alternatives for Hungary and Romania. The shaky nomination of Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) for the agriculture portfolio will be clarified and sooner or later France will also propose a suitable alternative. Other than this, the structure of the new Commission is clear.

Juncker Commission was leaner

Ursula von der Leyen will preside with eight vice-presidents, three of whom will have executive functions. Margrethe Vestager’s appointment as Executive Vice-President for digital Europe will be viewed as a concession to the liberals, who have become much stronger after the European elections. A further 18 commissioners are distributed across the individual ministries. In comparison, the Juncker Commission took office with just one First Vice-President, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and three other vice-presidents, and was more streamlined.

Tougher job for the Commission

The new Commission will not find it easier to do its job, especially as the importance of the individual portfolios is to be boosted. In addition, a number of topics are spread across various areas, with some surprising results. For example, Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President-designate and Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, is expected to present a Green Paper on ageing. The Green Paper will also address the question of whether social security systems are equipped to cope with an ageing society.

In general, health and social issues are addressed in many different areas. This made it necessary for both the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) to each be invited to six hearings with the proposed candidates. In the new Commission, it will probably be necessary to discuss responsibilities.