Smooth Operator – The Juncker Commission and its Priorities
A period of intense speculation and Parliamentary hearings with candidate Commissioners is officially over. On 22 October the European Parliament approved the Juncker Commission with 423 votes for to 209 against and 67 abstentions. Contrary to many predictions, the new Commission can start its work as foreseen on 1 November, pretty much with the original line up of candidates.
The new Commission and Juncker in particular have made an overall positive impression. The clear set of priorities Juncker has committed to, the new structure that supports these priorities and some very strong Commissioners in key positions are all encouraging. Moreover, Juncker can count on the support of the largest political groups in the European Parliament, who have in the whole process asserted their level of influence, at the expense of the smaller parties. In this sense Juncker was probably the right choice for Commission president – a fact he himself has not failed to point out. This hints towards the emergence of a cross-divide political mainstream in the European Parliament that will support the overall direction of the new Commission. Juncker will have to ensure that voices outside of this mainstream are not squeezed out by this political consensus of the centre, and that he delivers real impactful policies, or European voters may feel ever more alienated.
Juncker’s success will depend on Member State support and the individuals in charge of the respective portfolios. His most important task will be to adopt coherent policies in a context of strongly diverging positions among Member States, while maintaining overall goodwill. The next five months will already provide plenty of opportunity for him to demonstrate if he will be able to tackle the most pressing issues. As he himself has said, this will be the last chance to win the confidence of EU citizens. The stakes could hardly be higher.