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European Commission Report – December 2019

Article by Bernd Gruner, EUEW's Senior Adviser for EU Affairs

A more geopolitical Commission takes-up its work with an ambitious program.

The new Commission under the Presidency of Ursula von der Leyen took office on the 1st of December 2019 with an ambitious agenda aimed at greater geopolitical autonomy, promoting new technologies, a greener, more sustainable market economy and more social and regional cohesion in Europe. The European Union will have a more structured College of Commissioners with direct access to the General Directorates. The Commissioners' missions reflect the priorities of the political guidelines that Ursula von der Leyen presented at her candidature hearing resented in the European Parliament on 16 July 2019.

In the opening remarks at the read-out of the first College meeting on 4 December President von der Leyen presented the working methods adopted by the College of Commissioners. Some novelties will be introduced in the way the Commission works.

The College will work in a collegial way. The decisions are taken together, and thereby each member of the College is taking ownership of them, promotes them and defends them. The College of Commissioners will be composed of three Executive Vice-Presidents, five Vice-Presidents and 18 Commissioner. The three Executive Vice-Presidents will support President von der Leyen in a dual role. They will steer and coordinate thematic Commissioners’ Groups on the priorities of the political guidelines for the Commission and have a policy area under their authority. The Vice-Presidents will steer and coordinate a thematic Commissioners’ Group and the Commissioners will have a policy area under their authority. President von der Leyen has established six Commissioners' Groups covering the six Political Priorities: a European Green Deal; a Europe Fit for the digital age; an Economy that works for all; Promoting our European Way of Life; a Stronger Europe in the world and a New Push for Democracy.

Concerning the European Political Strategy Centre, the current think-tank of the Commission, the President will restructure it according to the six priorities of the political guidelines and adapt it to the new geopolitical reality. It will be called I.D.E.A., the acronym for Inspire, Debate, Engage and Accelerate Action.

For the first time, a specific group will be in charge of coordinating external affairs aspects of the Commission's work. Preparing the College meetings, the new Group for External Coordination (EXCO) will discuss on a weekly basis current international issues and coordinate positions to be taken in international fora or during Summits, amongst other things. The Group will be central in aligning the internal and external dimensions of the Commissions' work.

The meetings of the College of Commissioners are paperless with the aim to introduce it at all levels of the organisation, so that the European Commission becomes a digitally transformed, user-focused and data-driven administration.

The College will apply the “one in, one out” principle whereby each legislative proposal creating new burdens should relieve people and business of an equivalent existing burden at EU level in the same policy area.

The allocation of the 6 priorities of the political giuidelines to the Executive Vice - Presidents and Vice-Presidents is as follows.

Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans steers and coordinates the work on the “European Green Deal” aiming at having a carbon neutral European Union in 2050 and at realising a transition towards a circular economy using innovative clean technologies. Additionally. he will be responsible for the DG Climate Action and will chair meetings of the College of Commissioners in the absence of the President.

The Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager steers and coordinates the Commissioners’ Group “A Europe fit for the digital age” strengthening Europe’s technological leadership and strategic autonomy. She keeps the responsibility on competition strengthening its enforcement and reviewing its rules.

Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis steers and coordinates the Commissioners’ Group on “an Economy that works for People” aiming at deepening the Economic and Monetary Union with a special emphasis on more social and regional cohesion and greening and digitalising the financing systems of the EU. He will be responsible for the DG on financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union.

Vice-President/ High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrel will steer and coordinate the Commissioners’ Group “A stronger Europe in the World” for the geopolitical dimension of the Commission giving Europe a more strategic and united voice in the world and better link external and internal aspects of EU policies.

Vice-President Margaritis Schinas steers and coordinates the Commissioners’ Group on “Promoting the European way of life”. He will coordinate the European skills, education and integration agenda, build a common ground on migration policy and coordinate the work on a genuine European Security Union linking internal and external security and building-up resilience against hybrid threats.

Under the Priority “A new push for democracy”:

  • The Vice-President on “Interinstitutional relationship and foresight” Maroš Šefčovič steers and coordinate a Commissioners’ Group strengthening the partnership with the European Parliament and prepares the Commission workplan with the President.

  • The Vice-President for values and transparency Věra Jourová steers and coordinates the work on the European Democracy Action Plan, the work on upholding Europe’s value and rights and the work on bringing more transparency into the legislative process in the EU.

  • The Vice-President on Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica will be responsible for the Conference on the Future of Europe and will lead the Commission’s work on responding to societal challenges brought by demographic.

Amongst the Commissioners the following positions might be of particular interest for electrical wholesale:

Thierry Breton is Commissioner for the Internal Market and will be responsible for enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty for the digital economy and society, a co-ordinated European approach on Artificial Intelligence, the European Strategy on data and the new Digital Services Act. He will also work on preventing and countering disinformation and build-up a single market for Cybersecurity. He will ensure that the Circular Economy Action Plans feed into the overall industrial strategy. His responsibilities further include building an open and competitive European Defence Market and a strong and innovative space industry. He will be responsible for DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONECT) DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) and a A new DG for Defence Industry and Space.

Kadri Simson is Commissioner on Energy and will focus on further developing an integrated, interconnected and properly functioning European energy market, enable a rapid implementation of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy legislation, speed up the deployment and scale up the investment in clean energy and contribute to the review of the Energy Taxation Directive. She will be responsible for DG Energy.

Virginijus Sinkevičius is Commissioner for Environment Oceans and Fisheries he will lead the work on Circular Economy and will lead on delivering the zero-pollution ambition of the new Commission. He will be responsible for DG Environment and DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Adina Vălean is Commisioner on Transport and should put forward a comprehensive strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, contribute to the zero-pollution ambition, focus on mitigating the impact of transport on our climate and natural environment, from emissions reductions to air, water and noise pollution, contribute to the review of the Energy Taxation Directive in aligning it with the climate ambitions, bring an end to fossil-fuel subsidies and focus on a fair and functioning internal market for transport.

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