Mathias N. Müller
Apart from the current trouble spots in Ukraine and the Middle East, there is very little else the new European Commission in Brussels is talking about. As always when it comes to the allocation of portfolios to the candidates for the new Commission, feelings are running high.
After Federica Mogherini (Italian) was nominated by the European Council to be the next High Representative for Foreign Affairs Saturday night, other Member States are aiming for prestigious dossiers such as economic affairs, competition and internal market. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt nominated Margrethe Verstager on Saturday 30 August, saying that she would like to see her getting an “important and weighty post”. It seems as Verstager’s chances are good, as according to Thorning-Schmidt, Jean Claude Juncker indicated that “she can get a heavy portfolio”.
Generally, it is not far-fetched to say that Member States nominating women as their candidate for the next Commission have a chance to be allocated to an important portfolio. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, claimed when he was running as candidate for Commission President against Juncker, that he would only put forward a Commission that would comprise at least 50% women. Now he says that “if there are fewer women elected to Commission than the current nine, there is a risk of receiving not enough support in the European Parliament”.
Indeed, Juncker is struggling to get the Member States to nominate nine women in total. To incentivise the Head of States and Governments to do so, Juncker indicated that he would reward female nominees.
The Polish government took Juncker by his word and withdrew the nomination of Radek Sikorski, who was replaced by Elzbieta Bienkowska. Other Member States such as Romania might follow the Polish example by changing their candidates for the Commission. Currently, the proposed candidates only comprise six women. This puts Juncker under serious pressure as he does not want the European Parliament to act on its threat to reject a Commission with less than nine women. The Parliament’s position is backed by a call from the female Commissioners in the current college who advocate a new Commission comprising “ten or more” women for the Juncker Commission.
This week, the designated President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has begun to interview the candidates for the next Commission proposed by the Member States. Inter alia the one on one meetings will definitely cover the preferred portfolio by the respective candidate. However, the decision about the final allocation of portfolios is still subject to the approval by the Council before it will be officially published in the middle of next week. It could well be that the proposed college does not count nine women. However, this would still not mean the rejection of the Commission as a whole by Parliament in October, because some Member States who might be dissatisfied with their portfolio might replace their male candidate with a female, in order to get Juncker to reshuffle the portfolios in their favour.