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Von der Leyen announces distribution of Commission portfolios

Following Commission President von der Leyen’s announcement , 
European Policy Centre analysts assess the distribution of the Commission portfolios and what it means for the new team’s priorities. 
General remarks:

“The distribution of portfolios shows some politically smart choices on the part of von der Leyen: the decision to divide rule of law issues between Jourová & Reynders; the allocation of agriculture to Poland and transport to Romania. One of the most interesting choices is to attribute competition to Vestager, given her recent criticism vis-à-vis France and Germany.”
Janis A. Emmanouilidis
Director of Studies
The portfolio titles for the Vice-Presidents are far from self-explanatory. In the press conference, von der Leyen struggled to convey what exactly will be covered by Margaritis Schinas’ brief on “Protecting the European Way of Life”, implying that it was chiefly concerned with migration. This is not a great start when it comes to the new Commission’s communication efforts and getting closer to the citizens.”
Paul Butcher
Policy Analyst
“It was strategically smart to appoint of Věra Jourová as VP for Values and Transparency. As a Czech Commissioner and a liberal (RE) from a Visegrad country, it could mean that von der Leyen is looking to start a constructive dialogue on rule of law issues in Hungary and Poland, rather than a confrontation.”
Sophie Pornschlegel
Project Leader Connecting Europe and Senior Policy Analyst
Digitalisation is a horizontal challenge that touches upon different sectors, and it makes sense to have a Vice-President to help make the EU fit for a digital age. Digitalisation can also be an important tool in addressing climate, environmental and societal challenges. Hopefully, the next Commission will not just promote digitalisation for the sake of it but will aim to make the EU a global leader.”
Annika Hedberg
Head of the Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme and Senior Policy Analyst
“An Italian in charge of applying EU fiscal rules is likely to raise some eyebrows in several member states, who will worry about a potential conflict of interest. Von der Leyen appeared to be addressing these concerns head-on when she said that all decisions are taken jointly by the College, implying that Genitloni will not be taking key decisions alone, but rather under the ‘supervision’ of Dombrovskis. Gentiloni will also have to walk a fine line between the Italian government’s expectation to get some leeway on fiscal rules as a ‘reward’ for side-lining the far-right Lega and reassuring the member states that he will enforce the rules impartially.”
Marta Pilati
Policy Analyst
On democracy, citizen participation and the Conference on the Future of Europe:

“Von der Leyen made it clear that what binds this Commission together is its mission to ‘give EU democracy a new push’. The appointment of a Commissioner – a Vice-President, no less – for democracy is an encouraging sign that von der Leyen is taking the Conference on the Future of Europe seriously.”

“The Conference on the Future of Europe should not just follow up on last year’s European Citizens’ Consultations but also consider how to implement future rounds, taking into account the lessons learned so far […] A formal buy-in from the European institutions is required for it be effective and worthwhile.”

“The priorities and proposals determined by the ECCs should be linked to ongoing policy processes, like von der Leyen’s promise to reform the asylum system and put forward a European Green Deal within her first 100 days in office.”

“The pairing of democracy with demography is bold and requires rather more justification than the President-Elect was able to give during the press conference. Her theory that declining faith in democracy is a result of demographic change may have some truth to it, but it does not explain the whole picture. That people feel left behind is not just a result of demographic change – it also relates to technology, economics, jobs, and many other matters. However, von der Leyen’s presentation at the press conference and her mission letter to Dubravka Šuica suggests that the decision has already been taken: the crisis of faith in democracy can be fixed by tackling brain drain, the problems of an ageing society, and the urban-rural divide. Such an approach may prematurely close off other approaches to the issue.”

Paul Butcher
Policy Analyst
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Corina Stratulat
Head of the European Politics and Institutions programme and Senior Policy Analyst
On climate and the environment 

“The climate crisis is the challenge of our lifetime. As the world looks for solutions, there is an enormous opportunity for Europe to lead and show that change is possible. It’s time for the EU to demonstrate that the transition has economic, societal and environmental benefits, too – and use it to get other global actors on board.”

“It is great to see the challenge being recognised in the appointment of Timmermans as Vice-President for the EU Green Deal. This is a major assignment. Reaching climate-neutrality won’t be easy. It will require leadership, political will, the ability to build bridges, and taking action across many different sectors, from energy to agriculture, from transport to financing, from industrial processes to buildings. It is essential to have an outspoken champion for the transition, someone who can help mobilise different stakeholders. Timmermans certainly is a good candidate for the task.”
Annika Hedberg
Head of the Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme and Senior Policy Analyst
On migration

“The programme of the New Commission in asylum and migration is ambitious. The measure of its success will greatly depend on the capacity of Vice-President Margaritis Schinas to collaborate productively with Commissioner Ylva Johansson. It remains to be seen if this supervision will facilitate the work and initiatives of the Commissioner, or frustrate them.”

“The title of Vice-President Margaritis Schinas is worrying at best, disturbing at worst. ‘Protecting Our Way of Life’ is the heading one can expect from the political agenda of a right-wing party, not the mission of the VP responsible for a fresh start on migration. It is one thing to promote European values by making societies more inclusive; quite another to suggest that migrants are the reasons why those values are under threat.”

Alberto-Horst Neidhardt
Policy Analyst
On enlargement 
“Perhaps the most striking aspect of today’s press conference was von der Leyen’s seeming inability to defend her nomination of Hungary’s László Trócsányi to the enlargement portfolio. His appointment would mean that oversight of the rule of law and fundamental values in the Western Balkans will lie with Viktor Orbán’s former justice minister – a figure associated with a government with a poor record of its own on the rule of law, and which is currently sheltering North Macedonia’s ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who is fleeing prosecution on corruption charges. This would be a terrible message to send to the region: it will risk making the EU look hypocritical. Trócsányi will certainly be challenged in the European Parliament hearings, and he will have to defend himself better than his (prospective) boss was able to.”

“It is often assumed that Commissioners from ‘difficult’ member states – and Hungary certainly numbers among the most difficult – are given roles of comparatively low importance. If this is the case this time around, that would indicate that enlargement has dropped far down the Commission’s list of priorities – again, a discouraging sign for the Western Balkans.”

Corina Stratulat
Head of the European Politics and Institutions programme and Senior Policy Analyst
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Paul Butcher
Policy Analyst

On industrial strategy
“Goulard, a long-time ally of Macron, will be in charge of designing the EU’s industrial strategy. A signal that the new Commission is open to at least some of the suggestions made by the French government, one of the main promoters of an industrial policy at the EU level. ”
Marta Pilati
Policy Analyst
“The prominent reference to the circular economy and the fact that it should complement the new industrial strategy is good news. Achieving a circular economy is of strategic importance if we consider the growing global competition for resources and the EU’s sustainability goals. The EU needs to become smarter with the resources we have here in Europe, and the work has only just begun.”
Annika Hedberg
Head of the Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme and Senior Policy Analyst
On cohesion and regional Policy

“In her letter to Commissioner-designate Ferreira, von der Leyen acknowledges that the EU needs to invest in and support regions and people most affected by the climate and digital transitions. The creation of the Just Transition Fund is a welcome first step to address the unequal impacts of those transformations. It is, however, regrettable that these issues are not clearly mentioned in the letter to Goulard – The impacts of technological innovation and climate action are crucial issues for the EU industrial strategy as well.
“The cohesion portfolio has been given to Portugal, which receives a significant amount of funding destined for less developed EU regions. This indicates that the new Commission is ready to mount a defence of Cohesion Policy, whose budget some member states would like to see reduced in the next MFF.”

Marta Pilati
Policy Analyst 

On disinformation
“It is not clear just where responsibility for tackling disinformation will lie. Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager may have oversight under the heading “a Europe fit for the digital age”, but is unlikely to have the time to devote serious energy to it alongside so many other responsibilities. This does not bode well for the prospects of a more focused approach to what is after all a pressing threat to EU democracy.”
Paul Butcher
Policy Analyst
On agriculture

“It’s good to see such a strong focus on healthier and more sustainable food production in von der Leyen’s mission letter to Janusz Wojciechowski, Commissioner-designate for Agriculture. At least its importance is recognised. But the real challenge will be to find a way to reform an agricultural sector that now does the exact opposite.”

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