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New European Commission Starts Work Today

February 10, 2010

The new European Commission officially started work today after receiving the approval of the European Parliament on Tuesday.  A majority of 488 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted for the Commission while 137 voted against and 72 abstained.  It will also be the last Commission with 27 members, as the Lisbon Treaty stipulates the number of commissioners will be reduced from one Commissioner per member state to a number equaling two-thirds of the number of member states (approximately 19 Commissioners) in 2014.

Despite the easy passage of the Commission on the final vote, this Commission had not been without controversy.  The first Commission under the Lisbon Treaty, the College of Commissioners contains the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton from the UK, whose nomination had been criticized for her lack of foreign policy experience.  Bulgaria’s first nominee, Rumiana Jeleva, was forced to withdraw after MEPs were not convinced she could handle the disaster management and humanitarian aid portfolio.  Despite the fact that the Parliament can only vote for the entire College and not individual commissioners, this is the second time in a row that the Parliament was able to get a Commissioner-designate to withdraw.  In 2004, Rocco Buttiglione was forced to withdraw as Justice Commissioner due to his conservative view, especially on women’s rights.

As the European Parliament continues to gain powers and the number of Commissioners will be reduced so that every member state is no longer always represented, one could expect the ratification of a new Commission in 2014 to be even more contentious.

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