New ‘balanced’ EU executive team unveiled

Brussels - The incoming EU Commission unveiled by its next chief, Ursula von der Leyen, has made climate policy, digital technology and rekindling Europe's economy core ambitions for the next five years.

Von der Leyen boasted that her team, which starts work on November 1, is "well-balanced", not only geographically and politically across the bloc but also in terms of gender.

Including von der Leyen, Germany's former defence minister, there are 13 women in the new commission, alongside 14 men.

The new European Commission


- Three executive VPs -


Von der Leyen said the eight vice presidents she appointed incarnate the main initiatives she wants enacted, with three having executive powers and the additional role of commissioners:


Frans Timmermans (Netherlands), in charge of the "European Green Deal", meaning fighting climate change and putting Europe on the path to carbon neutrality by 2050;


Magrethe Vestager (Denmark), tasked with making "Europe Fit for Digital Age" as well as oversight for competition; and


Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia), upholding an "Economy That Works for People".


Who are the three executive vice-presidents in the European Commission?


The other vice presidents are:

Josep Borrell (Spain), who is also the the EU's top foreign policy honcho, who will have to make a "Stronger Europe in the World"; Maros Sefcovic (Slovakia)  for "Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight"; Vera Jourova (Czech Republic) for "Values and Transparency"; Dubravka Suica (Croatia) for "Democracy and Demography"; and Margaritis Schinas (Greece) for "Protecting Our European Way of Life".


- Commissioners -


The 18 commissioners -- effectively EU ministers in charge of specific areas -- are again a mix of officials drawn from the Western European nations that formed the historic nucleus of the European Union and from up-and-coming member states, many of them in the eastern part of the bloc.

Some, such as Phil Hogan (Ireland) made trade commissioner, Johannes Hahn (Austria) in charge of budget and administration, and Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) tasked with Innovation and Youth, are holdovers from the outgoing Commission, in different roles.

Others, including Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) in charge of Jobs, Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) who has the agriculture portfolio, Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) taking on Cohesion and Reforms, and Laszlo Trocsanyi (Hungary) headlining Neighbourhood and Enlargement, were in the European parliament or other EU institutions.

Many of the remainder held top positions in their national governments.

Ursula von der Leyen unveils EU Green Deal

That is the case of former Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni who has the economy brief, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders taking on Justice, and Sweden's outgoing Employment Minister Ylva Johansson assuming Home Affairs. Also: Lithuanian Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevicius, heading to the EU to take charge of Environment and Oceans, Estonian former economy minister Kadri Simson in charge of energy, and Malta's former European Affairs minister Helena Dalli.

Or -- like Finland's Jutta Urpilainen, tasked with International Partnerships, or Stella Kyriakidis (Cyprus) for Health -- they were high-ranking deputies in their national parliaments.

The horse-trading behind von der Leyen's list has already gone through vetting stages with the governments of 27 of the EU's 28 member states -- Britain sat out the whole process because of Brexit, which it wants to happen the day before the new Commission takes office.

But the selected candidates still have to go through European Parliament confirmation hearings, from September 30 to October 8.

Who is Ursula von der Leyen?

By Marc Burleigh