Two commissioners for energy in Juncker Commission: a new way of working

Within the European Commission (EC), all decisions are taken collectively and in respect of the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and better regulation. However, President Jean-Claude Juncker wants the new EC, which took up office in 1 November, to work differently from its predecessors. As Europe faces global challenges, silo mentalities must be overcome. That’s why, commissioners will now work jointly within project teams. To illustrate this point, we will focus on energy issues and how it is integrated in the EC.

Two commissioners in charge of energy have been nominated and approved by the European Parliament. The first one is Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-president for the Energy Union. According to his mission letter, his responsibilities are:

  • Leading the Project Team “Energy Union”.
  • Establishing a European Energy Union by connecting infrastructures, enforcing legislation and increasing competition to help drive down costs for citizens and businesses and boost growth.
  • Working to prevent energy shortages, diversifying sources of energy imports and ensuring a united European voice in negotiations to improve our energy security.
  • Helping to mobilise additional investment in power grids, renewable energy installations and other energy infrastructure.
  • Improving energy efficiency, especially for buildings; with a binding target of 30% less energy use by 2030.
  • Coordinating the Commission’s efforts to ensure the EU reaches its climate and energy targets for 2020 and 2030.

The second one is Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action & Energy. He is in charge of:

  • Increasing Europe’s energy security by diversifying sources of energy imports and uniting Europe’s negotiating power in talks with non-EU countries.
  • Selecting energy infrastructure projects to help establish a European Energy Union.
  • Proposing new EU laws and rules to implement the 2030 climate and energy framework and steering negotiations with the European Parliament and national governments.
  • Further developing an EU policy for renewable energy to make the EU the world’s leader in the sector.
  • Strengthening and promoting the Emissions Trading System, the flagship of EU climate policy.

The overcoming of silo mentalities is particularly clear in the composition of the project team Energy Union: Maroš Šefčovič (Energy Union), Miguel Arias Cañete (Climate Action & Energy), Karmenu Vella (Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries), Phil Hogan (Agriculture & Rural Development), Violeta Bulc (Transport), Elżbieta Bieńkowska (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), Corina Creţu (Regional Policy), Carlos Moedas (Research, Science and Innovation), Günther Oettinger (Digital Economy & Society), Cecilia Malmström (Trade), Marianne Thyssen (Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility), Pierre Moscovici (Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs), Vĕra Jourová (Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality) and Margrethe Vestager (Competition).

Miguel Arias Cañete is also a member of several project teams: Energy Union; Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness; Better Regulation and Interinstitutional Affairs; Budget and Human Resources; Europe in the World.

Miguel Arias Cañete will work like his predecessors by developing specific policies. Nevertheless, he has not any individual decision-making power. Maroš Šefčovič will lead projects, by steering and coordinating the work of the commissioners within his project team. As a Vice-President, he will be acting on President Juncker’s behalf and will help him exercise his rights and prerogatives in his area of responsibility – here the Energy Union.

From now, energy will play a double and crucial role in Europe:

  • On the one hand, energy is key to implementing some major EU policies (Europe’s voice in the World or unemployment, which is called by Jean-Claude Juncker as the 29th Member State). For example, Europe’s voice cannot be as strong as the EU would wish to be because of its fossil fuels dependency. So the new EC organization will allow energy to be integrated thanks to Miguel Arias Cañete’s presence in all these key issues.
  • On the other hand, energy has now the power to gather all transversals skills to achieve its goals in an approach “top-down”. For example, in order to build a smart and integrated grid within the EU, the Commissioners in charge of energy and digital will now work closely together.

On the paper, the new organization seems to be very interesting. Will it work? It will strongly depend on the ability of the Commissioners to work as a group.

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