European Union: Meet The (New) Commissioners – What The VDL Commission Means For Financial Services

Last Updated: 23 September 2019
Article by Michael Huertas

Speculation on who is in and who is out of the 2019-2024 College of Commissioners has been mounting since Ursula von der Leyen (VDL) was confirmed as European Commission President-elect. On September 10, 2019, that wait came to an end when the VDL Commission1 and relevant portfolio allocations2 were announced by von der Leyen in a moving, multilingual speech. This new team includes some familiar faces but for the first time represents a true gender balance (13 women and 14 men – and one Commissioner-less post for the UK), and also reflects not only the political groupings in the European Parliament but also bridges the East/West, North/South and New/Old Member State divides to build, as VDL stated, a “geopolitical Commission”. 

While Germany has clinched the top job, other Member States have emerged as “winners” by receiving coveted posts, such as Italy being rewarded with the economic affairs portfolio and a mission to use the “full flexibility of the Stability and Growth Pact”, and Ireland receiving the trade portfolio and the lead on the post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, thus demonstrating the EU’s support for Ireland. Despite the VDL Commission’s appeal, it does, however, contain a couple of controversial contenders as well as some unusual new job titles that are coupled with more powers and entirely new thematic areas. As explored in this alert below, this could have some potential benefits for issues affecting financial services.

Why does this all matter?

The new VDL Commission matters for the direction of the EU and various action plans including financial services. It also matters for how the Commission will act through more empowered Commissioners and certain of the eight incoming Vice-Presidents now charged with steering and coordinating thematic Commissioners’ Groups. Of the eight, three will become Executive Vice-Presidents, a new role with dual functions to lead the relevant thematic group and manage a policy area with a Directorate General (the closest thing, that in the case of DG-FISMA and financial services, the EU Commission has to a financial services’ ministry) under their remit. 

Valdis Dombrovskis, who has led DG-FISMA, which is responsible for financial services policymaking, will also head the thematic area “An Economy that Works for People”. This portfolio covers a range of tasks including strengthening the EU’s strategy on SMEs, climate investment and a long-term strategy for industrial policy, as well as trade and economic relationships, and will also look to strengthen the role of the euro as “a strategic asset for our Union”. This is also supplemented by further action to develop the BICC, the Budgetary Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness, which aims to take the first (tentative) steps to a Eurozone-19 budget. 

His mammoth “To Do” List is set out in a “Mission Letter”, which ties in with the overall incoming VDL Commission’s focus, against a challenging political and macro-economic background, to put climate, technology and demography-driven changes at the heart of the European Commission’s priorities, in order to upgrade the EU’s unique “social market economy to fit today’s new ambitions”, including the delivery of the “European Green Deal”.

These actions in part tie in with the VDL Commission’s goals, including completing the Banking Union (a common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund and the European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS) are singled out along with EU-wide action to fight financial crime), reinvigorating the Capital Markets Union and developing the EU’s green financing action plan as well as its FinTech strategy. As always, our Eurozone Hub will provide rolling coverage on how these political goals are translated into concrete action in the form of legislative and non-legislative reforms, along with the impact of the increased Europeanization of financial services supervisory culture, approaches and intra-institutional mandates and their supervisory expectations, along with their operational ability. 

So, who are the VDL Commission and why does it matter? 

With Germany’s VDL having secured the top-job, the UK now for the moment “Commissioner-less”, these are the allocations for the Commissioners, who have effectively been assigned (new) policy-themed portfolios rather than mirroring the Commission’s civil service in the current form of the 53 Directorate-Generals, Departments and Executive Agencies, which will continue to support the Commissioners: 

Name

Role & dossier/Directorate General (DG)

Country of Origin

Ursula von der Leyen

President of the Commission

Germany

Frans Timmermans

Executive Vice-President responsible for the “European Green Deal” thematic area and Commissioner for Climate Action

The Netherlands

Margrethe Vestager

Executive Vice-President responsible for the “Europe Fit For The Digital Age” thematic area and Commissioner for Competition

Denmark

Valdis Dombrovskis

Executive Vice-President responsible “An Economy that Works for People” thematic area and Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union

Latvia

Josep Borrell

Vice-President and EU’s High-Representative responsible for foreign policy

Spain

Maroš Šefčovič

Vice-President and responsible for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight

Slovakia

Věra Jourová

Vice-President and responsible for Values and Transparency

Czech Republic

Dubravka Šuica

Vice-President responsible for Democracy and Demography, who will also lead work on the Conference on the Future of Europe

Croatia

Margaritis Schinas

Vice-President responsible for Protecting our European Way of Life

Greece

Johannes Hahn

Commissioner for Budget and Administration

Austria

Phil Hogan

Commissioner for Trade

Ireland

Mariya Gabriel

Commissioner for Innovation and Youth

Bulgaria

Nicolas Schmit

Commissioner for Jobs

Luxembourg

Paolo Gentiloni

Commissioner for Economy

Italy

Janusz Wojciechowski

Commissioner for Agriculture

Poland

Elisa Ferreira

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms

Portugal

László Trócsányi

Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement

Hungary

Stella Kyriakidou

Commissioner for Health

Cyprus

Didier Reynders

Commissioner for Justice, including work on the rule of law

Belgium

Rovana Plumb

Commissioner for Transport

Romania

Helena Dalli

Commissioner for Equality

Malta

Sylvie Goulard

Commissioner for Internal Market, Industrial policy, The Digital Single Market and also responsible for the new Directorate General for Defense Industry and Space

France

Ylva Johansson

Commissioner for Home Affairs

Sweden

Janez Lenarčič

Commissioner for Crisis Management

Slovenia

Jutta Urpilainen

Commissioner for International Partnerships

Finland

Kadri Simon

Commissioner for Energy

Estonia

Virginijus Sinkevičius

Commissioner for Environment and Oceans

Lithuania

Josep Borrell

High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy and Vice-President for “A Stronger Europe in the World” thematic area

Spain

Outlook

Assuming the Commission is confirmed, including those already identified as “questionable”, then the hope is that in addition to delivering on what is an ambitious agenda, DG-FISMA will pick up a range of items that have been on hold due to Brexit and other obstacles. The first steps have already been taken by the influential ECON Committee of the Consilium3, which met in Helsinki on September 13 and reached a very welcome agreement to combat hybrid threats facing EU financial markets, to improve supervisory information sharing (in order to make supervisors more efficient), to improve systemic and financial market infrastructure resilience4, and to reboot the CMU as CMU 2.05 and to discuss fiscal reforms, including the recent commissioned report6 issued by the European Fiscal Board. 

This matters in particular for the securitization market, which was supposed to be better supervised but more importantly the focus of the flagship reform of the September 2015 launch of the Capital Markets Union project. Market participants can expect a much deeper focus on green and sustainable financing as well as SME funding, where the concept of a SME Growth Market introduced by MiFID II, allowing easier access to capital market funding for SMEs, is being supplemented, and possibly displaced conceptually, with the public-private fund for SME financing announced in the Mission Letter. These and other themes, including the direction of travel on a range of scheduled legislative reviews and reforms to existing pillars of pre- and post-crisis legislation, are expected to be expanded upon in much greater technical detail in forthcoming publications from DG-FISMA after the incoming VDL Commission is confirmed. 

While Dombrosvkis’ Mission Letter is clear on the need to complete the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union (and possibly speed up the building of an Insurance Union), DG-FISMA may need some new thinking and more resources. In particular, it needs to clear the backlog of various proposed laws and implement technical and/or regulatory technical standards that the market is (surprisingly) waiting for, if it is to avoid delays to the various legislative timetables. With the Executive Vice-President’s new thematic area of “working for the people”, perhaps this might translate into greater action to reduce delays, which generate uncertainty, barriers to market entry and high(er) costs of compliance?

Footnotes

1.Available here.

2.For a graphical representation please see here.

3.Details and Discussion Papers relevant to the meeting are available here.

4.See Discussion Paper available here.

5.See Discussion Paper available here.

6.Available here.

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