New Geopolitical Commission Unveiled with Strong International Outlook

On Tuesday 10 September, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen unveiled her pick of Commissioner-designates and their respective portfolios. While there were some surprises compared to rumoured allocations, overall the ‘package’ was welcomed by citizens and business alike.

Explaining the proposed new College of Commissioners, Von der Leyen stressed that her focus will be on Europe’s place in the world – which entails defining its relationships with competitors and strategic partners. She made a particular reference to her ambition to build a partnership with US, but also reiterates the EU’s goal to be an international defender of standards. Von der Leyen calls this her “geopolitical Commission.” An overarching theme in the new Commission is that sustainability and climate change will feed into all areas of their work. Von der Leyen commits the EU to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent. This is an opportunity rather than a threat for business, she explained.

In terms of allocation of portfolios, as expected, Frans Timmermans (Netherlands) will be charge of the Green New Deal while Magrethe Vestager (Denmark) retains her competition brief. Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia) remains in charge of financial services. These three Commissioners will also be Executive Vice-Presidents in a shake-up of the Commission’s structure. In this new structure, there is a four-layer team with a President, 3 ‘Executive Vice-Presidents’, 5 Vice-Presidents and 18 regular Commissioners. Executive Vice-Presidents will be in charge of large cross-sectoral portfolios, coordinating the work across sectors in addition to specific areas of work assigned to them.

The French Commissioner, Sylvie Goulard will lead industrial policy and is mandated to promote the Digital Single Market. Budget supervision will be tasked to Paolo Gentiloni from Italy as the Economy Commissioner. Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan will take charge of Trade which is significant as he will deal with UK in phase 2 of Brexit negotiations (i.e. trade agreement) if that point is reached.

Overall, the assessment is that this new Commission (provided it is approved by the European Parliament) will work towards creating European champions internationally while ensuring strong social protections.

To see more of Kreab’s assessment of the incoming College of Commissioners, see here.

Danny O'Connell