Position Wrangling

As Juncker Finalizes Team, Germany Unhappy with Digital Post

E.U. Energy Commissioner Günter Oettinger. Source: DPA
Outgoing E.U. Energy Commissioner Günter Oettinger unhappy about future post.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The E.U. executive body wields enormous power within the 28-member bloc, with the commissioners responsible for initiating legislation and implementing decisions.

  • Facts


    • Germany is the biggest contributor to the E.U. providing around 20 percent of its budget.
    • The European Commission has 28 members.
    • Günther Oettinger, a party ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was CDU premier of the state of Baden-Württemberg from 2005-2010
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The countdown is on. Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming European Commission president, is due to present his new team early next week. The wrangling over the most important jobs in Brussels is entering its final stages – and tensions behind the scenes are growing.

Above all, there is said to be unease over the future portfolio of Germany’s current commissioner, Günther Oettinger, currently in charge of energy. Mr. Juncker is reported to be offering the German the digital agenda job, a high ranking E.U. diplomat told Handelsblatt on condition of anonymity. However, the offer has not been warmly greeted by Mr. Oettinger. The holder of the Internet post is not exactly regarded as a political heavyweight in Brussels.

Oettinger knows that — which is why he is pushing for a more important dossier: trade. However, up to now, Mr. Juncker has shown little sign of wanting to consider this request, according to sources in Brussels. The final decision about Oettinger’s new job is expected to be made this weekend.

The jockeying for position is going a bit better for France. Pierre Moscovici, the former French finance minister, is pushing for the economics and monetary affairs portfolio – and his chances have been regarded as good. Germany has voiced reservations about appointing someone from France to this sensitive post. However, these objections are not said to have made much of an impression on Mr. Juncker. The Berlin government has pointed out that for years the French have failed to keep to the bloc’s strict budget rules as agreed in the Stability Pact. The Germans object to a Frenchman of all things now being in charge of these very rules.


All eyes are on Jean-Claude Juncker, incoming commission president, as he picks his team. Source: DPA
All eyes are on Jean-Claude Juncker, incoming commission president, as he picks his team. Source: DPA


However, Mr. Juncker is said to also be considering an alternative job for Mr. Moscovici, that of competition commissioner. In fact, on Thursday the Euroactiv website leaked what it said was an interim draft list of the Commission nominees, on which the French former minister was earmarked for the competition portfolio, while Finland’s Jyrki Katainen was down for the economics and monetary affairs job.

Another candidate being mentioned in connection with the competition job is Belgium’s Marianne Thyssen. In her favor would be the fact that Mr. Juncker is said to want to appoint women to more senior jobs in the commission and the competition portfolio has a particularly wide reach within the E.U. executive body.

Mr. Oettinger’s current energy job will mostly likely to go to the British nominee Jonathan Hill, according to sources in Brussels, who would take on a new expanded energy and climate portfolio.

Mr. Juncker is said to have decided already on who he will appoint as vice presidents. These are Andrus Ansip from Estonia, Latvia’s Lette Valdis Dombrovskis, Slovenia’s Alenka Bratusek and Mr. Katainen of Finland. The incoming E.U. foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, is already nominated and Poland’s Elzbieta Bienkowska is thought to also be a possible vice president.

It is thought that Mr. Oettinger will not be made a vice president.

It is thought that Mr. Oettinger will not be made a vice president, despite the fact that he is one of the few commissioners who will be serving a second term. Outgoing president, José Manuel Barroso, usually appointed those serving a second term as vice presidents.

Meanwhile, Mr. Juncker has managed to reach his target of having nine women on his 28-strong team, the same number as before. There had been speculation that if the number were reduced, then the European Parliament could reject the new commission. If that were to occur, then a new round of horse-trading would begin.

This article was translated by Siobhán Dowling. To contact the author: berschens@handelsblatt.com

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