What course will the new Commission take?

Ursula von der Leyen, the president-designate of the EU Commission, presented her new team of commissioners on Tuesday. The composition of the Commission and the titles of the new portfolios have met with criticism in the media. Commentators speculate on what changes the new faces in Brussels will bring.

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G4Media.ro (RO) /

A victory for Orbán and the Visegrád states

The new Commission president buckled to pressure from the Visegrád states, G4 Media sighs:

“Ursula von der Leyen has given Hungary precisely the area of responsibility that Orbán wanted: the portfolio for neighbourship policy and expansion. It's a key post for Orbán, who wants to spread his illiberal and anti-European policy to all the neighbouring countries. It's a scandal that this portfolio was given to a government that had razor wire erected on its borders and has been trampling on Europe's values for years. Yet von der Leyen has not only yielded to the Hungarian government but to the entire Visegrád group. It was tough as nails in the negotiations for its votes [in the election of von der Leyen as Commission head] and has now received the portfolios and leading positions it demanded in return.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The EU can't afford neutrality

The question of what direction the new Commission's foreign policy will take is particularly interesting, Italian ex-foreign minister Marta Dassù comments in La Stampa:

“If Europe's strategic sovereignty equates to a neutral stance vis-à-vis potential conflicts between the major international powers, the geo-political consequences will be significant indeed. In this case the end of the Western Alliance will only be a matter of time. ... Until then the EU, as a 'Greater Switzerland', will have to be able to defend itself, also in the area of nuclear conflict. But it doesn't look like this will be the case any time soon. Because Brexit is disorienting one of the Old Continent's two most important military powers - and defence isn't exactly high on the list of investments.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Commission must keep media in check

Daily Sabah outlines what Turkey expects of the new EU Commission:

“This Tuesday as EU Commission President von der Leyen was presenting the commission members at a press conference, a journalist from Euronews, known for its opposition to Turkey, did everything to make the EU commission president make a statement against Turkey. Our wish for the new EU Commission is to be rather meticulous in regards to Turkey and the 'opposing' media.”

444 (HU) /

Now everyone has to talk to everyone

The new boss has distributed the posts wisely, 444 concludes:

“Von der Leyen has designed the portfolios in such a way that in the most sensitive areas delegates from at least two governments with opposing standpoints have a say. She has assigned the responsibilities in a way that ensures that all political orientations are represented for each issue. The previous Barroso and Juncker Commissions set themselves the goal of putting politicians who want a more central role for Brussels into key positions. ... Von der Leyen has not set such a clear course for the Commission but she has created a system in which everyone must negotiate with each other, and in which no one feels humiliated.”

Denník N (SK) /

An impressive team

Dennik N approves of the composition of the new Commission:

“With twelve women nominated, this is the most balanced Commission in the history of the institution. There were only eight women commissioners in the last term. And compared with the late 1980s when there were no female commissioners at all, it's a radical shift. ... What's more, it's very much in Slovakia's interest that the Commission retains its supranational character. In day-to-day practice, formal rules and unwritten standards prevent commissioners from advancing the interests of both individuals and above all their own member states. For example, in public statements the commissioners never speak of their own country but about 'the country I know best'.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A good balance between austerity and investment

Paolo Gentiloni was nominated EU Economic Affairs Commissioner. Some have criticised the decision saying that the former Italian prime minister lacks credibility on debt control. But the EU will need a more expansionary economic policy anyway, La Repubblica argues, explaining how von der Leyen will enforce this:

“By giving Gentiloni the role of Economic Affairs Commissioner the president of the Commission will be able to count on an authoritative personality who moves in this direction. With [the Latvian Christian Democrat Valdis] Dombrovskis as Vice-President and Commissioner for the Euro, she will have someone to slow down the Italian's enthusiasm. The result is that von der Leyen herself will be the referee in this game and decide how and to what extent budgetary discipline should be combined with support for growth.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

A conciliatory gesture to Eastern Europeans

The fact that Poland has been given the key post of agricultural commissioner could improve relations not just between Brussels and Warsaw but with the Eastern European member states in general, The Irish Independent comments:

“Mr Wojciechowski is currently Poland's nominee at the EU's audit service based in Luxembourg. But he has a strong background in farming and farm politics, and farmer unions are likely to give him the benefit of the doubt for a time at least. Giving such a big budget post to Poland is seen as a move to improve relations between Brussels and Warsaw. It is also a gesture towards the former Eastern Bloc member states seen to have lost out in the division of the EU's big jobs this past summer.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Belgian to watch over Europe's soul

Belgium's foreign minister is to become justice commissioner. He deserves the post, Le Soir stresses:

“Didier Reynders hasn't been given this post inadvertently or by accident. One could say it's his due. After three years of incessant dialogue with his colleagues, the Belgian foreign minister has achieved a consensus regarding the creation of a systematic mechanism for monitoring respect for the rule of law using an irrefutable argument: 'Why is it that we examine the states' budgets in detail every year, but not the state of the rule of law?' ... This is a decisive argument in view of the populism which is currently eating away at European democracy. And this is also a very special post: the Belgian won't be watching over Europe's budget or competition, but over its very soul.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

Swedish politician got a thankless job

Upsala Nya Tidning is not at all happy with the decision to give Swede politician Ylva Johansson the migration portfolio:

“As a leading country on climate issues and emissions reduction, Sweden could have played a defining role and become a central force in this area. ... The next five years are crucial for the future of the EU, not least because of the UK's exit. ... But Brexit is, paradoxically, an opportunity for von der Leyen, because it strengthens the cohesion of the remaining 27 countries. But to expect that to be enough for an agreement on migration is probably too much to ask. Ylva Johansson knows that, too.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

A little-known key portfolio

The Slovenian politician Janez Lenarčič has been given the International Crisis Management portfolio. In this post he will bear a lot of responsibility, Dnevnik explains:

“If Europe wants to achieve a better understanding with Africa, limit migration and establish a mutually beneficial long-term cooperation in the area of development in the coming years, Lenarčič will be the one who is responsible for Europe's responses to crises, also on its neighbouring continent. ... His portfolio is not among the political heavyweight posts endowed with the most funding. It is a modest portfolio that doesn't get much attention when times are good - but when times are bad it can be a lifeline.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Von der Leyen could divide the Visegrád states

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has offered the Czech politician Věra Jourová, currently EU Commissioner for Justice, the Commission rule-of-law portfolio. If the proposal goes through it will be a clever move on von der Leyen's part, Lidové noviny concludes:

“Up to now the Dutchman Frans Timmermans has held the post, which was a thorn in the side of the Visegrád group. In the new post Jourová would be in a position where she might have to settle EU disputes with member states. The most heated disputes in the past have been about the Polish judiciary and Hungary's education policy. The EU has threatened both of these states that belong to the Visegrád region with sanctions. Against this background, some experts see von der Leyen's offer as an attempt to undermine the alliance of the V4.”

hvg (HU) /

Hungary's candidate most likely has no chance

The EU Parliament is unlikely to give the green light for the Hungarian candidate László Trócsányi, who was justice minister under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, hvg believes:

“The lawyer, who switched from the post of justice minister to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, has experience as a constitutional judge and ambassador, speaks foreign languages, and as a former member of the Venice Commission in European is well versed in matters of European cooperation. The problem lies elsewhere: some of the deficits regarding the rule of law criticised by the European Parliament in the Sargentini report, which was adopted by a two-thirds majority, are directly linked to Trócsányi.”

Sega (BG) /

Gabriel's key skill is regurgitation

Sega thinks little of Mariya Gabriel, Bulgaria's proposed candidate for the European Commission:

“As Commissioner for Digital Economics she focused on fake news in the media rather than on technologies, and achieved nothing. ... She failed to notice that the media situation in Bulgaria doesn't even meet the most basic European standards. Nor did she have any problems with the media empire built up by Delyan Peevski, which has caused Bulgaria to plunge to embarrassing depths in the media freedom rankings. Mariya Gabriel's great strength is that she is able to memorise all kinds of unfamiliar terminologies that are whispered to her by EU directorates, so she can shine in front of the election commissions in the European Parliament.”