100 days in the “Brussels bubble”: the Commission of the Change by Mr. Juncker

The Juncker’s Commission, after having taken office last November, has now been at work for 100 days. Which changes has it produced?

e24db1fedf81dab0a9b3444d07a0f4f2Change […] is about […] to how we do business. Europe needs change, but we will not deliver it if we continue to work separately in silos; each focused on their own niche issues and fortresses.” Jean-Claude Juncker, “the man of the change”, was elected President of the EU Commission in June 2014 and its Commission took office in November. In mid-February, the 100 days of the Commission in charge were the occasion to put Juncker’s job under examination for the first time.

For the occurrence, the Brussels-based think tank ‘Friends of Europe’ set up a policy insight on the Commission’s leadership, inviting Juncker himself, flanked by Étienne Davignon, the Commission Vice-President during the 1980s and Jacques Delors, the Commission President from 1985 to 1995. Side by side, the Old Europe – Davignon and Delors – and the New One – Juncker – have highlighted that not only the most compelling priorities have profoundly changed, but that the European institutions way to tackle them is also different.

During his speech, Jacques Delors declared that being a Commission President today is much more difficult than in the past, firstly because of the public opinion, traumatized and ideologically closer to populist anti-European movements. Secondly, because of the gap between an enlarged EU of 28 MSs, meaning 28 commissioners with divergent backgrounds, and the euro area which still counts just 18 countries. Thirdly, because of the game between the institutions which often misses the implementation of the community method: the Commission is often seen as an executer and its primary right of initiative is lost.

Juncker, as the President of the change, wants to stress that the Commission is not a mere “bureaucratic gang”, but a full political body, with politics at the heart of its work. The Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change that he proposed in July, aims at facing the most compelling challenges affecting EU society, to re-establish citizens’ trust towards the institutions. Juncker implemented this project by giving new shape to the Commission’s structure, particularly, by attributing to the Vice Presidents the role of leading clusters working on precisely assigned tasks, for a college made up of team leaders and team players. In this institutional framework, legislative proposals should be launched to the Council of the EU and the Parliament as a rocket which has to pass by several stages: at the basis, there are the Commissioners and the competent DGs, then the Vice Presidents chiefs of the working groups, after the First Vice President and finally Juncker, who can approve the take-off. In this group interaction promotes collaboration; on the other hand, it raises problem of coordination, as well as authority and responsibility.

In addition to this uncertainty, The Commission’s relations with the Brussels mechanisms are not clear, too. In the EU, a trade-off exists between the internal standards set by the Brussels bubble and the necessities created by the external world. Until now the institutions have answered more to the formers, then the latters. As a result, they have often taken a “recovery” initiative, rather than a “preventive” one, towards present threats. For example, only after terrorism had displayed on the European soil, the urgency for a more secure Europe has been stressed, as well as, to prevent further tragedies in the Mediterranean, Mare Nostrum has been rearranged as Frontex. Then, will Juncker’s Commission be able to burst the bubble?

Let the time to run its course.

Giulia Formichetti

Pubblicato il 2 Aprile 2015

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