Jean-Claude Juncker gives key economic and financial responsibilities to French and British ministers
Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming president of the European Commission, handed key economic and financial responsibilities to French and British members of a restructured, 28-strong team.
Former French finance minister Pierre Moscovici was given the economic and monetary policy portfolio.
However he will be supervised by former Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen and former Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis.
Paris has been pushing for greater flexibility within the euro zone on government deficits, hoping to revive economic growth, while Katainen and Dombrovskis were allies of Germany in insisting that euro zone states hold down their debt levels.
In a surprise move, Britain’s Jonathan Hill was given a revamped portfolio entitled Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union – something the London government, outside the euro zone, had been pitching hard for.
He will be in charge of relations with, among others, the European Banking Authority.
One analyst described Hill’s job as “a major peace offering” by Juncker, to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who fought hard and publicly to block Juncker’s’ appointment as president two months ago.
Like Moscovici, Hill’s brief will be overseen by Katainen and Dombrovskis, part of a structure in which Juncker said seven vice-presidents would help coordinate the work of the Commission, on which each of the 28 member states has one seat.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan has been confirmed as the European Union’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. The agriculture commissionership accounts for nearly 40% of the total EU budget.
Mr Hogan, a native of Kilkenny and former minister for the environment, was nominated in July by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. He becomes the second Irishman to hold the post after Ray MacSharry.
“I have decided to make some changes and to shake some things up a bit,” Juncker told a news conference today.
His new structure will have more vice-presidents than before and they no longer have their own portfolios but oversee broader themes.
Danish liberal Margrethe Vestager will be in charge of the powerful competition portfolio that gives the EU a big say in the expansion or merger plans of the world’s biggest companies, while former Slovenian prime minister Alenka Bratusek will oversee the EU’s plan to create an energy union.
Sweden’s Cecilia Malmstrom will have the task of negotiating the world’s biggest trade agreement between the US and Europe.
Miguel Arias Caneta of Spain will be energy and climate change commissioner, though former Slovenian former premier Alenka Bratusek will have the more senior post of vice-president overseeing the development of an energy union.
Germany’s Guenther Oettinger will have responsibility for the digital economy, a portfolio including the overhaul of the EU telecoms market.
Elzbieta Bienkowska of Poland takes the role of commissioner for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and small business.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans will become, in the Commission president’s own words, Juncker’s “right hand” as first vice-president with direct access to the work of all the other commissioners.
Critics of Juncker’s appointment had questioned his willingness to heed those resistant to the continual expansion of the powers of Brussels, as well as of his ability to take on such a major managerial workload.
The new Commission is due to take office on November 1, subject to its confirmation by the European Parliament.