Von der Leyen unveils most gender-balanced EU commission team

Brussels – European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced her proposed line-up of EU commissioners on Monday, with an overall 13 women – including her – and 14 men, in her attempt to create a gender-balanced team.

Gender equality

Von der Leyen, who is due to succeed outgoing commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1, made it a key priority to compile a gender-balanced commission. She is to be the first woman to run the European Union’s executive.

Each EU country – barring departing member-state Britain – proposed its choice of candidate, although von der Leyen had the option of rejecting them and asking for alternative names.

The final decision rests with the European Parliament, however, which will cast a final vote on the full package following a series of hustings. It is not unusual for EU lawmakers to reject proposed candidates.

List of new commissioners

The proposed list includes eight current commissioners, among them Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands and Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, whose names were both parts of a package of top appointments agreed by EU leaders in July.

The list also includes political heavyweights such as former Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. Meanwhile, Juncker’s departing spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, is Greece’s commissioner-designate.

The most controversial nominees are Hungary’s former justice minister Laszlo Trocsanyi, who supported contested judicial reforms, Polish candidate Janusz Wojciechowski, who is being investigated by the EU’s anti-fraud office, and Romania’s Rovana Plumb, who faces corruption allegations.

On Tuesday, von der Leyen is expected to announce how she plans to allocate portfolios among her proposed team, with economic portfolios among the most sought-after.

During her appointment process, the former German defence minister set out a series of priorities, including environmental proposals to achieve net climate neutrality by 2050, efforts to introduce minimum wages across the EU and the taxation of digital companies.

The commission is the European Union’s executive, with a staff of around 32,000. It is responsible for proposing new legislation and ensuring EU rules are adhered to.