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A new leadership for Europe

11 Sep 2014

Following weeks of speculation and intense lobbying by European governments, EU Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker has revealed his team for the top jobs in European politics. Some nominations are a surprise and will be the source of lively debate among MEPs who must approve the candidates.

The nominations of the Commissioners of the European executive – one from each of the 28 member states – have a profound impact on the EU agenda over the coming five years. The Commissioners decide what legislation gets put on the table and are responsible for its detailed drafting.

What’s more, on the back of the EP election results, which saw a boost to more Eurosceptic parties, they have a new unwritten responsibility to make the EU more transparent and to explain the benefits of Europe to millions of Europeans who are increasingly sceptical about the whole system and its apparent inability to deliver growth and jobs. All incoming Commissioners will have to work harder than ever to make Europe more relevant to the electorate and drive through an ambitious legislative programme.

The nomination of Jonathan Hill, leader of Britain’s House of Lords, as Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union is the biggest surprise of the day. It’s a heavyweight portfolio and suggests Juncker is not bearing a grudge toward British Prime Minister David Cameron, despite his very open opposition to Juncker’s appointment.

The nomination of Pierre Moscovici, the former French Finance Minister, as Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs had been widely trailed. He is set to be in charge of the key role of supervising national budgets, and also now takes responsibility for the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).

Both Hill and Moscovici will have to work closely with Jyrki Katainen, the former Finnish Prime Minister who has been appointed Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.  Although Vice Presidents are not a new development, Juncker seems to be looking to give them greater power to coordinate the work of individual Commissioners, though how this will work in practice will probably only become clear in the coming months.

One of the priorities for the new executive is going to be regulating the financial industry. Over the coming five years, we can expect proposals for second iterations of the AIFMD and EUVECA legislation covering fund management and venture capital, and a stance on granting passports for non-EU funds and fund managers.

We can also expect more powers for the triumvirate of the European Banking Authority, the European Securities and Markets Authority, and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority. More will also come on so-called shadow banking, and whether or not alternative sources of finance as foreseen in a Capital Markets Union should face tighter regulation. As Financial Commissioner, Hill will face a tough job to balance the need to regulate financial institutions without stifling the fragile economic growth that is emerging across the EU and Eurozone.  

The Commission appointments are still open to upset. There is already criticism from some quarters regarding the allocation of key portfolios. The European Parliament’s approval is still needed and there is a chance not all nominees will get through. However, the plan is for the new executive to take office in early November – then the hard work will really start.

Michael Collins, Deputy Chief Executive and Public Affairs Director, EVCA

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