Dissecting Juncker's Commission: View from Italy

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Mogherini's controversial nomination as HR/VP does have its advantages.

Juncker’s new Commission has been well received. Italy is happy to see the independent-minded Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva was named Vice President and Commissioner Budget and Human Resources. There is a bit of concern over Finland's former Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, who can be firmly placed within the austerity camp, being nominated Vice President and the Commissioner in charge of jobs, growth investment and competitiveness. 

But most media attention is centred on another Vice President, Federica Mogherini, the 41-year-old Italian minister of Foreign Affairs, who was appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and will lead the EU’s foreign policy for the next five years. In Juncker’s new cluster model she will also supervise and guide the work of four other commissioners: the Directorates-General of Development, Humanitarian Aid, Trade, and Enlargement and Neighbourhood policy.

She will take office on November 1st and has already introduced a small but very significant change: she decided to move offices, from the EEAS building, where Lady Ashton sits, to the Berlaymont building, inside the European Commission itself. A clear signal that her loyalty is to the EU, not the states.

Federica Mogherini is from the new generation of the Italian ruling Democratic Party (PD) and is among the youngest politicians in the centre-left party. She was elected to Parliament in 2008, joining the Lower House Committee on Foreign Affairs. She represented Italy in the Parliamentary Assemblies of both NATO and the Council of Europe, has worked in the Washington, Berlin and Brussels-based think tank the German Marshall Fund think tank, and was very active in nuclear disarmament groups.

Her candidacy for the High Rep position was controversial, blocked in July by 11 Eastern European member states that viewed her as being too soft on Russia. Some in Italy also criticized the nomination, citing her youth and inexperience, and preferring an Italian in charge of economic or regional policy. Italians would also have liked to see a Commissioner for Enlargement but are pleased to see that the issue is being overseen by Mogherini.

At the time when crises in the east raise energy supply concerns and tumult has spread through most of the southern neighbourhood (also creating a refugee crisis in Europe), Italy is well positioned geopolitically to represent EU interests.  

This article is part of a series of views on the portfolios and the people of the new European Commision, including Josef Janning's article on the importance of the new cluster structure. For the full collection, go here.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.

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