Trade

Von der Leyen sets priorities with new Commission lineup

Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman ever selected to lead the European Commission, put forward her slate of nominees Tuesday. The team has historic, near-perfect gender balance, and portfolio assignments designed to tackle urgent policy challenges.

The posts include an executive vice president focused on climate change; a commissioner tasked with overseeing a new department for defense industry and space; and vice presidents focused on values, democracy, and the “European Way of Life.”

Von der Leyens nominees, who need confirmation by the European Parliament in coming weeks to take office, include 12 women and 14 men — a leap forward from the current Commission, which has eight women, and a seismic shift for the EUs executive body, which from 1985 to 1988 had no women at all.

In addition to von der Leyen, a former German defense minister, in the top job, women in the next Commission will hold many of the most powerful posts and prominent portfolios, including Margrethe Vestager of Denmark as executive vice president charged with making “Europe fit for the digital age.”

By proposing eight vice presidents, von der Leyen will face questions about whether she has created a College with too many bosses.

Vestager will also retain her current position as competition commissioner, continuing a role overseeing the EUs anti-trust regulations that brought her to global prominence and even drew criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, who derisively referred to her as the “tax lady.”

Other prominent women include Věra Jourová of the Czech Republic, who will be vice president for values and transparency; Sylvie Goulard a former French defense minister, as commissioner for the internal market and also overseeing a new directorate general for defense industry and space; Dubravka Šuica, a former mayor of Dubrovnik in Croatia, as vice president for democracy and demography; and Kadri Simson, of Estonia, as energy commissioner.

The selection of Jourová, representing one of the Visegrad Four nations of Central and Eastern Europe, carries special significance given still-simmering tensions between Brussels and two of the V4, Poland and Hungary, which have been accused of undermining core EU principles on rule of law and democracy.

Among the men, Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands, who was the center-left candidate for Commission president, will be executive vice president for the “European Green Deal,” essentially retaining the senior executive position he currently holds in Jean-Claude Junckers Commission.

And Valdis Dombrovskis, a former prime minister of Latvia and current Commission vice president, will be executive vice president for economic and financial affairs. Former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni will be commissioner for economy.

Von der Leyens proposed College of Commissioners effectively scrambles positions and portfolios to focus far more on policy themes than on mirroring the Commissions departments | Tim Ball

Josep Borrell, currently the Spanish foreign minister, will be high representative for foreign affairs — a decision that was made by the heads of state and government on the European Council at the same time they chose von der Leyen for the presidency.

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