On Tuesday 10 September 2019, Ursula von der Leyen, new President of the European Commission, officially announced the distribution of portfolios to Commissioners-designate. In the new Commission structure, von der Leyen will be supported by 27 Commissioners including 3 Executive Vice-Presidents (EVPs) and 5 Vice-Presidents (VPs) responsible for the top priorities in the President’s Political Guidelines. Frans Timmermans, Margrethe Vestager, and Valdis Dombroskis, as EVPs will have a double function as both VPs and Commissioners. Every Commissioner will be under the guidance of an EVP or a VP, depending on the topic, and will be supported by the relevant DG in the Commission. In addition, Commissioners and DGs of the European Commission will establish thematic groups to better coordinate their actions. (see the explanatory scheme below)
Changes for sport are quite significant as the topic is proposed to be in the portfolio of Commissioner-candidate Mariya Gabriel (BUL) with the role of Commissioner for “Innovation and Youth”. Her portfolio would be much wider than the portfolio of current Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, as it is proposed to include not only education, culture youth and sport, but also research and innovation. Gabriel is the current European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. On sport topics, Mariya Gabriel will work under the Guidance of the Vice-President for Protecting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas (GRE) and will be supported by the DG EAC of the European Commission.
The absence of sport in the title of the new Commissioner is a negative message regarding the importance of sport topics in her priorities. Nevertheless, there is still a small chance that sport would be added to the title following the audition by the European Parliament. In addition, the mission letter from von der Leyen referring to “Innovation and Youth” creates uncertainties about the new EU Sport policy as the only reference to sport is “sport as a tool for inclusion and wellbeing, expansion of the #BeInclusive EU Sports Awards and further grow the European Week of Sport to get more people active”. The focus seems to be on societal role of sport. As a positive message, Von der Leyen reiterates her wish to see Erasmus tripled for the next funding period in the mission letter.
Another important announce concerned Margrethe Vestager (DEN) - which is proposed to act as EVP for “Europe fit for the Digital Age” and to continue as the Commissioner responsible for competition. DG Comp was involved in several sport related cases in her previous mandate and she would strengthen her position if this new Commission is approved.
However, there is still a long road to confirm the new college of Commissioners. Indeed, from 30 September to 8 October the parliamentary committee(s) dealing with the candidate’s proposed portfolio will conduct hearings of all Commissioners-designate. For the Commissioner in charge of the topic of sport the CULT Committee proceeded the audition on 30 September 2019. (see the relevant article of our monthly report)
Following the hearings, the Parliament will vote, in a plenary session, to decide whether to support the new College of Commissioners. The Parliament must support or reject the proposed Commission as a whole as they cannot reject a single Commissioner. If approved, the new EU Commission should most likely officially start its five-year term at the beginning of November 2019.