We are about to find out during the public hearings in the European Parliament which will be taking place from September 30th until October 7th. During these hearings the Commissioners designate will be scrutinised by MEPs on their knowledge in relation to their portfolios and their stances with regard to important upcoming policy issues. In this article we will shortly examine the Commissioners designate who will be playing an important part in EU Foreign Affairs policy.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker presented his new team and their posts on the 10th of September. In the run up to the announcement of the new Commission, there were lots of speculations about the allocation of the different portfolios. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans is elected as the First Vice-President, the right hand of President Juncker. Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini has become the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Juncker’s left hand. In this function, Mogherini has to ensure a more effective external action of the European Union. One of her main responsibilities will be to steer and coordinate the work of all Commissioners in the field of external relations. Mogherini will work closely with, specifically, the Commissioners for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations; Trade; International Cooperation and Development; and Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
The Austrian Johannes Hahn, who has served as Commissioner for Regional Policy since 2010, is to become the Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and for Enlargement Negotiations. In his blog Hahn states: “The EU's relations with its neighbours to the East and South are more important than ever – and more challenging -, and I am looking forward to working closely with the future High Representative Federica Mogherini on this”. Under the control of Hahn, EU neighbourhood policy should promote stability at Europe’s borders and support the establishment of stable democratic institutions in neighbouring countries.
Cecilia Malmström, a former Commissioner in charge of Home Affairs and Minister for EU Affairs within the Swedish government, is the new Commissioner designate for Trade. In her blog she states: “I am very honoured and proud to have been nominated to be responsible for trade issues in the new European Commission”. In the mission letter for the Trade Commissioner President Juncker acknowledges that policy coherence is very important in the field of trade relations, by stressing that “trade policy is an essential part of our external relations and we should ensure full coherence of positions and actions vis-à-vis our Member States and partners”. The Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS) hopes that Malmström will commit herself to EU trade policy that has a positive impact on EU relations with developing countries, in line with the statement above.
The Croat Neven Mimica, a former deputy prime minister for foreign affairs and European integration, will be taking up the role as Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. Mimica states about his nomination: “This is an important dossier; the European Union and its Member States are the world’s largest donors of development assistance. More than this in an interdependent world Europe's future is inextricably linked to that of our neighbours both near and far.”  The FMS is very content that Mimica recognises the fact that a secure and prosperous future for Europe to a large extent depends on the situation in ‘far neighbouring countries’, namely the least developed countries. The FMS hopes that he will translate this statement into decisive policies, in line with our commitment to Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), which is also stressed as a key priority for development cooperation in his mission letter from President Juncker.
During the public hearings the Commissioners designate will set out their objectives for the new portfolios and exchange views with MEPs. The FMS hopes the MEPs will question the Commissioners designate on their commitment towards democracy support in neighbouring countries and fair and coherent EU policies in the field of development cooperation, in line with social democratic values and international solidarity.