Juncker presents European Commission team, merges energy, environment portfolios

European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled his incoming team of 27 commissioners on Wednesday and plans to bundle several energy and environmental portfolios.

In addition to creating a vice presidential post for a new Energy Union "project team," Junker has also bundled a number of environmental portfolios, creating a new Climate Action and Energy department as well as an Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries portfolio.

The new Commission College will have seven vice presidents, each leading a project team that the EC said mirrored "political guidelines," such as Energy Union; Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness; and Digital Single Market.

The new bundled portfolios, including Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, reflected the twin logic of "blue" and "green" growth, the EC said.

"[E]nvironment and maritime conservation policies can and should play a key role in creating jobs, preserving resources, stimulating growth and encouraging investment. Protecting the environment and maintaining our competitiveness have to go hand-in-hand, both are about a sustainable future."

The same logic was applied in the establishment of one commissioner for both Climate Action and Energy policy, the EC said. "Strengthening the share of renewable energies is not only a matter of a responsible climate change policy. It is, at the same time, an industrial policy imperative if Europe still wants to have affordable energy in the medium term."

Both new portfolios will contribute to the new Energy Union project team, to be headed by former Slovenian Prime Minister and European Commission Vice President-designate Alenka Bratusek.

Current European Vice President and Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, meanwhile, will now serve as commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.

According to the EC, Bratusek will steer and coordinate the work of several commissioners, in particular the heads of Climate Action and Energy; Transport and Space; Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs; Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; Regional Policy; Agriculture and Rural Development; and Research, Science and Innovation.

Former Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment Miguel Arias Cañete will serve as commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. Cañete will oversee the Euratom Supply Agency (ESA), relevant parts of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) as well as relations with the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER).

Former Maltese Parliamentarian Karmenu Vella has been appointed commissioner of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, where he will likewise oversee relevant parts of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) as well as relations with the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA).

In addition, the environment department will see some changes: parts of Waste Management and Recycling dealing with food waste parts of Chemicals dealing with biocides will now be overseen by the commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

"Juncker’s team is full of surprises – not all of them good,” commented Greenpeace EU managing director Mahi Sideridou. “The merging of environment and fisheries and a set-up with two commissioners with energy portfolios are certainly controversial choices.

"Overall, it’s vital for the new Commission to make a fresh start after years of apathy on environmental policy in the EU,” Sideridou added. “Juncker and his team will have to pull their socks up to effectively tackle the burning questions of climate change and energy security. They have a responsibility to improve the lives of Europeans by cleaning up the environment and developing a more sustainable economy. To do this they will have to stand up to powerful private interests and instead protect the long-term prosperity of millions of people across Europe."

On the appointment of Cañete as Energy and Climate Change commissioner, Sideridou added: “A capable and proactive commissioner could help steer the EU towards deep carbon cuts and a clean, efficient energy system. … To prove he is the right man for the job, he’ll have to resolve conflicts of interests and improve on his environmental record as a minister.

Sideridou said with events in Iraq and Ukraine stoking fears about Europe’s energy security, and climate change undermining political stability, the EU needed a Commission that recognized the importance of reducing the region’s “dependence on dirty, imported fossil fuels."

The European Parliament still has to approve Junker’s entire College of Commissioners. Once the European Parliament has given its consent, the European Council formally appoints the European Commission.