Commission Positions

The Juncker Games

alenka bratusek-dpa-CHANGED
Alenka Bratusek, former president of Slovenia, was out-manoevered for the EU Commission post.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The center-left Social Democrats and center-right Christian Democrats view their unofficial coalition in Brussels as a partnership that allows them to chess-move their candidates into the desired positions within the European Commision.

  • Facts


    • Alenka Bratušek was prime minister of Slovenia from March 2013 until May 2014.
    • She nominated herself for the European Commission post of vice president, without the support of her own government.
    • Incoming commision president, Jean-Claude Juncker, got most his appointments approved.
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Alenka Bratušek, the former prime minister of Slovenia, has only herself to blame for failing to build support for her bid to become vice president for energy union.  The European Union Parliament has the absolute right to reject a candidate for an E.U. commissioner post.

It’s not a disaster either, for European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who supported Ms. Bratušek. He will recover from the debacle, though the start of his commission likely will be delayed for a few weeks. Soon, no one will waste a word on the subject.

Ms. Bratušek had a lot going against her from the start in any case. After being voted out of office, she nominated herself for the position in Brussels, a move that didn’t go down well there. On top of that, she had zero support from the Slovenian government and performed poorly during a hearing last week, where she was loudly criticized for a lack of knowledge about the part of the E.U. economy she would oversee. The members of parliament showed her no mercy and rightly so.

With so much solidarity in play, it wasn’t difficult to pound the last nail into the coffin of the liberal Mrs. Bratušek.

Mr. Juncker is hardly alone in this experience. His predecessors have experienced similar stumbles as they began their terms. In fact, Mr. Juncker should breathe a sigh of relief that his other controversial candidates have been given the green light by parliament. It borders on miraculous that former Spanish minister, Miguel Arias Cañete, survived his quest to become E.U. commissioner for energy and climate change, given his close ties to the oil industry and his history of sexist rhetoric.

The fact is that the unofficial coalition between the center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Christian Democrats in the E.U. parliament have made possible things that until recently were only daydreams. What rivals see as horse-trading is viewed by these coalition members in Brussels as a stable partnership. Social Democrats helped propel problematic conservatives such as Mr. Cañete and Jonathan Hill, a Briton and close ally of British Prime Minister David Cameron and who will oversee financial markets, in order to protect their own controversial candidate, France’s Pierre Moscovici for the post of economic and monetary affairs commissioner.

With so much solidarity in play, it wasn’t difficult to pound the last nail into the coffin of the liberal Ms. Bratušek. A Social Democrat may now take her place.

So while the E.U. Parliament hearings are an elementary part of democratic control, they are not free of tactical maneuvers to secure and hold political power.


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