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Dissecting Juncker’s Commission: View from Bulgaria

Kristalina Georgieva from Bulgaria will be one of the six vice-presidents in Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission. She will have responsibility for the European Union’s budget and its institutions’ human resources. Together with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans who has received the portfolio for Better Regulation, Georgieva will act as the main agent of cohesion and accountability of the commission, which under Juncker’s new structure is more decentralised.

With quite a few former prime ministers and other high-profile politicians on board, Juncker’s team risks lacking a single focus and direction. Georgieva has won the post of Junker’s left, if not right, hand because of her efficiency and experience in large multinational institutions – she was previously vice-president at the World Bank. She was also helped by her independence from the agendas of the larger member

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European foreign policy: the Berlaymont strikes back

The Lisbon Treaty aimed to improve the coherence of Europe’s foreign policy by giving one person two jobs – High Representative of the member states and external affairs commissioner. Catherine Ashton survived by largely ignoring the second aspect. Now, Jean-Claude Juncker has struck back.

His Mission Letter to Ashton’s successor, Federica Mogherini, in her capacity of Vice-President of the European Commission, is fascinating: part seduction, part abduction. On the one hand, under Juncker’s new “cluster management” approach, Mogherini is empowered to “guide the work” of the aid, development, enlargement/neighbourhood, and trade commissioners.

Trade? Subject the commission’s most powerful fiefdom to the “guidance” of the foreign policy vice-president? If this can be made to stick in practice, then Juncker has substantially strengthened the hand of the European Union’s foreign

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Renzi’s victory: Mogherini becomes High Representative

I admit it: I was one of those who thought Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was overconfident when he insisted on putting Federica Mogherini forward for the post of High Representative.

In July, 11 member states from Eastern Europe blocked the Italian foreign minister’s bid, arguing that she was too close to Russia. Many of us thought that that was the end of Mogherini’s hopes. Renzi had been too precipitous in proposing her – or rather, demanding her – and he exposed the young Italian minister to sharp criticism. People said she was too young, too inexperienced, too little known, and lacked the leadership required to deal with the immense challenges of today’s world.

But, as I argued after the European elections, Renzi had a card to play: he received 41 percent of the vote in the European Parliament elections in Italy. While we all know that Renzi is a skilful player, many

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Germany’s summer of discontent on foreign policy

In a different era, Robert Kagan provoked the transatlantic policy community by using the analogy of Venus and Mars to describe the mental split across the Atlantic on attitudes to conflict. A similar divide appears to exist on dealing with opportunity and risk in foreign policy. Some actors grow stronger when they perceive risk. Others depend on a positive-sum environment to exercise power and seem to be almost paralysed in the face of adverse conditions.

Among the major players in Western foreign policy, Germany is perhaps the one that best fits the latter category of a “sunshine state”. Berlin’s foreign policy machine works best when it can support, encourage, help, or reward. It struggles when it has to employ dissuasion, sanctions, or red lines. Public attitudes in Germany, as well as the country’s foreign policy resources and tools, lend themselves to co-operation, not

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Banking Union discussion in Brussels: testing willingness for further reforms

About ten days ago, 80 participants from the European Union community took part in a very interesting pre-launch event to discuss ECFR’s new policy brief, “How to complete Europe’s banking union” at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.

The brief describes the progress that the euro area is making through the EU banking union framework, which has now been agreed. Banking union, along with related legislation such as that setting out higher capital requirements for banks through the capital requirements directive IV (CRD IV), will make the euro area banking system much more stable. The union will also make supervision much more uniform and coherent. Moreover, it will limit the toxic link between member states’ banking systems and their sovereign debts. It will make a banking crisis less likely and restrict bail-outs by the member states by prescribing that

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