New EU Commission enshrines gender equality
Incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has named her choices for the EU’s new top team.
Those on her list face some difficult challenges, including handling the UK’s exit from the 28-nation bloc and the fight against climate change.
If approved by the European Parliament, Mrs von der Leyen’s executive team will be the most gender-diverse in EU history, with 13 women and 14 men.
There is no UK nominee, as Brexit is currently scheduled for 31 October.
That exit date is the day before the new Commission takes office. MEPs will hold confirmation hearings for each nominee.
Based in Brussels, the Commission is in charge of enforcing EU rules and the bloc’s treaties. It is the only EU body that can draft laws.
Mrs von der Leyen, Germany’s former defence minister, will officially replace Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 1 November.
The new executive team of 27 – one for each member state – is planned to be in place for five years.
BBC reporter Adam Fleming says the appointments are considered hugely significant in Brussels – akin to the Oscars film awards – with national pride at stake.
Mrs von der Leyen’s list features some new posts within the Commission, but who are the key players?
Phil Hogan (Ireland)
Nominee for Trade Commissioner
In his current role as EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, the former Irish government minister has criticised the UK government’s attitude during Brexit negotiations and what he has called the “tough guy approach” of some “Brexiteers”.
Mr Hogan described what he said was Britain’s poor grasp of the importance of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border issue as “disheartening”. He has warned the UK that it faces “a huge gap between hope and experience” when it begins operating its own trade policy.
Earlier this year, the 59-year-old warned plans published by the UK government for tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit were an attempt “to break EU unity” over the Irish border issue.
Margaritis Schinas (Greece)
Nominee for Vice-President and Protecting Our European Way of Life
Known to be extremely careful about what he does and does not say, the current EU Commission spokesman and member of Greece’s centre-right opposition party New Democracy has been outspoken about Brexit.
Mr Schinas, 57, has pushed the UK to provide “clarification” on the rights of EU citizens living in Britain following the country’s exit from the union.
He has also said that in a no-deal scenario, it would be “pretty obvious” that there would be a hard border on the island of Ireland – meaning checks on people and goods.
If approved for the role, Mr Schinas will oversee migration, security, employment and education.
Frans Timmermans (Netherlands)
Nominee for Executive Vice-President for European Green Deal
Currently First Vice-President of the Commission, the centre-left politician has already shown a preparedness to tackle the climate crisis, helping to steer through EU legislation banning plastic straws.
The multilingual 58-year-old could now see himself helping to implement further environmental policies, which will be at the heart of the EU’s agenda for the next five years.
He has also previously negotiated the EU’s 2016 deal with Turkey to reduce the flow of migrants and has warned of the risks of nationalism.
“People who used to vote for my party and many parties here are now voting for nationalist parties, sometimes even extremist parties. That’s our fault,” he said in June.
Margrethe Vestager (Denmark)
Nominee for Executive Vice-President, Europe Fit for the Digital Age
A big name in Danish politics, Ms Vestager has spent the past five years as EU competition commissioner, spearheading EU anti-trust investigations that have ended in big fines for US technology giants Google and Apple.
Her nomination may cause technology firms to sit up and take note. She has already earned the wrath of US President Donald Trump: “Your tax lady, she really hates the US,” he is reported to have told her boss, Jean-Claude Juncker.
But she believes companies must pay their way.
Ms Vestager, 51, is a member of the European liberal group Renew Europe. She gained ground in the European elections earlier this year and was among the nominees for Mrs von der Leyen’s role.
She has previously served as Denmark’s economy and interior minister.
Who else is on the list?
Johannes Hahn (Austria), Budget and Administration; Didier Reynders (Belgium), Justice; Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria), Innovation and Youth; Dubravka Suica(Croatia), Democracy and Demography; Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus), Health; Vera Jourova (Czech Republic), Values and Transparency; Kadri Simson (Estonia), Energy; Jutta Urpilainen (Finland), International Partnerships; Sylvie Goulard(France), Internal Market; Laszlo Trocsanyi (Hungary), Neighbourhood and Enlargement; Paolo Gentiloni (Italy), Economy; Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia), An Economy that Works for People; Virginijus Sinkevicius (Lithuania), Environment and Oceans; Nicolas Schmit (Luxemburg), Jobs; Helena Dalli (Malta), Equality; Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland), Agriculture; Elisa Ferreira (Portugal), Cohesion and Reforms; Rovana Plumb (Romania), Transport; Maros Sefcovic (Slovakia), Relations and Foresight; Janez Lenarcic (Slovenia), Crisis Management; Josep Borrell (Spain), A Stronger Europe in the World; Ylva Johansson (Sweden), Home Affairs.