The make-up of the new European Commission was announced today. In this “Juncker team”, the UK’s nominee, Lord Hill, will serve as the Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. The UK government will be delighted that the UK nominee is to hold a portfolio of such importance to the UK financial services industry.
As well as appointing his new team, President-elect Juncker has decided to organise the Commission differently from its predecessors. Four priority projects are being entrusted to Vice-Presidents of the Commission (of which Lord Hill is not one) in order for them to steer and coordinate work on key areas across the Commission. The four priority projects are:
- “A New Boost for Jobs, Growth and Investment”, headed by the Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness (Jyrki Katainen, the Finnish nominee).
- “A Connected Digital Single Market”, headed by the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market (Andrus Ansip, the Estonian nominee).
- “A Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy”, headed by the Vice-President for Energy Union (Alenka Bratusek, the Slovenian nominee).
- “A Deeper and Fairer Economic and Monetary Union”, headed by the Vice-President for The Euro and Social Dialogue (Valdis Dombrovski, the Latvian nominee).
The prominence of the Baltic States in these Vice-Presidential appointments is particularly interesting given the current tensions with the Russian Federation.
Lord Hill, Financial Services Commissioner
A peculiarity of Lord Hill’s appointment is that he will oversee the completion of banking union in the Eurozone – of which the UK is not a member. The loyalty of a Commissioner is of course to the Commission and the EU as a whole. In his letter appointing Lord Hill, President-elect Juncker set him priorities including
- “Seeking appropriate ways to revive sustainable and high quality securitisation markets, to reduce the cost of raising capital in the Union and to develop alternatives to our companies’ dependence on bank funding.”
- “Continuing to put in place a regulatory framework which ensures the resilience and stability of the financial services sector.”
- “Ensuring timely and effective implementation of the financial services regulatory reform agenda…All necessary arrangements for the Banking Union should be made so that the Single Resolution Board is set up and operational on time.”
- “Bringing about a well-regulated and integrated Capital Markets Union, encompassing all Member States, by 2019, with a view to maximising the benefits of capital markets and non-bank financial institutions for the real economy.”
- “Contributing, as part of the project team steered and coordinated by the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, to ensure the safety and the modernisation of the Union’s regulatory framework on digital/electronic payments in order to facilitate online purchases.”
A new Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union will report to Lord Hill.
Lord Hill will, President-elect Juncker made clear, be expected to work closely with Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. An initiative will not be included in the Commission Work Programme unless recommended by one of the Vice-Presidents. It will be interesting to see whether the increased power accorded to Vice-Presidents impacts upon the authority of other Commissioners. But for now, the UK government will be relieved that its nominee has received the key Financial Services portfolio.