New EU Chief Has Controversial Names Among Her 26 Commissioners

Published September 9th, 2019 - 12:07 GMT
European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen  (AFP)
European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen (AFP)
Highlights
Most of her team are dyed-in-the-wool Europhiles, including one who has backed Britain's Liberal Democrats and another who moaned about the British media's Brexit coverage. 

Incoming European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has named her 26 fellow Commissioners for the next five years, including a Belgian minister once accused of racism after blacking up his face and an Emmanuel Macron ally who lost her job as a French defence minister over a party funding scandal. 

Former German defence minister Mrs von der Leyen was appointed to the top job, replacing Jean-Claude Juncker, after secretive negotiations in July and takes office in November. 

Most of her team are dyed-in-the-wool Europhiles, including one who has backed Britain's Liberal Democrats and another who moaned about the British media's Brexit coverage. 

Belgian nominee Didier Reynders worked under Brexit critic-in-chief Guy Verhofstadt in Belgium's government in the early 2000s. But he also landed himself in hot water when he dressed up in blackface for a charity event in Brussels. 

Spain's Josep Borrell has been named the new EU foreign affairs supremo, replacing Federica Mogherini, but the other roles have not yet been designated. 

However, French media has reported that France's nominee Sylvie Goulard is likely to get the EU's internal market portfolio. 

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Goulard is a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron and joined his government when he was elected in 2017.

However, she lasted less than a month, resigning under a cloud when an investigation was opened into how her party had used EU funds.  

Another nominee, the Czech Republic's Vera Jourová, took aim at the British press for its Brexit coverage in 2018, accusing the media of causing 'division'. 

'I would advocate a European approach to media based on quality and smart regulation, if needed,' she said. 

Meanwhile Denmark's Margrethe Vestager is believed to be the inspiration for the main character in Borgen, a political TV drama in Denmark which has also become a hit in the English-speaking word. 

Labelled the 'ice queen' by the Danish press, she became education minister at the age of just 29. 

Also nominated is Frans Timmermans, a Dutch MEP who was in the frame for Mrs von der Leyen's job earlier in the year. 

The line-up features 13 women including Mrs von der Leyen, making it the most gender-balanced Commission in EU history.  

There is one Commissioner for each member state, but the UK is not nominating one as it is preparing to leave the bloc on October 31. Germany does not get another Commissioner in addition to Mrs von der Leyen. 

The European Parliament will have to confirm the final line-up before the 27 new Commissioners take office along with Mrs von der Leyen on November 1. 

The nominations 'follow a series of formal interviews President-elect von der Leyen held, over the past weeks, with each of the persons suggested by the Member States as candidates for Commissioner,' a statement said. 

Julian King is Britain's current representative on the Commission but he will not be replaced.  

Mrs von der Leyen was confirmed as Jean-Claude Juncker's successor as president after scraping home by nine votes in July. 

The German nominee won the vote by 383 to 327, needing the support of 374 MEPs for an absolute majority. 

Mrs von der Leyen has previously spoken of her desire to create a 'United States of Europe' and was heckled by members of the Brexit Party. 

The German defence minister, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been labelled 'the soloist' for her go-it-alone style.

With allies including France's President Macron, she emerged as the unexpected choice to lead the Commission after all of the lead candidates at May's European Parliament elections were rejected by EU heads of government.

She played down the narrowness of her win, insisting that a 'majority is a majority' and acknowledging that some members had opposed the nomination process. 

But in a sign of the difficulties she will face, she received an immediate rebuke from Nigel Farage who said the narrow result meant she had 'power but no legitimacy'.  

Juncker got the job in 2014 as the lead candidate or 'Spitzenkandidat' of the centre-right bloc in that year's elections. 

The system was meant to give democratic legitimacy to the Commission chief, but none of this year's lead candidates won the backing of EU leaders.    

This article has been adapted from its original source.    


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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