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European Union: The new Commission is taking shape – von der Leyen’s plans for a social Europe

Ursula von der Leyen, who will follow Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission in November, has presented her selection for the appointment of the new Commissioners, picking Nicolas Schmit as Commissioner for Jobs.

Of course, the candidate-commissioners will still have to be approved by the European Parliament, but the chances are high that the Luxembourger Nicolas Schmit will survive these hearings. In Luxembourg, Nicolas Schmit, who is a member of the Workers Party, functioned as Minister-delegate of Foreign Affairs and Immigration under the Juncker-Asselborn government from 2004. In 2009, he became Minister of Labour, Employment and Immigration of Luxembourg. In this role, he functioned as chairman of the EPSCO network of the Party of European Socialists. The EPSCO is the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council within the European Council. In the European elections if May 2019, he was elected as Member of the European Parliament for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), where he seats in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. Therefore, Schmit certainly has the right experience to assume the position of Commissioner of Jobs.

On a side note, it is worth mentioning that the title of the competence of the Commissioner has changed from Marianne Thyssens’ competence: “Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility” into simply “jobs”. Moreover, the separate commissioner competence of social dialogue, which belonged to Valdis Dombrovskis, has disappeared. Nevertheless, the Latvian Dombrovskis was promoted to Vice-President of the Commission and received the competence “an economy that works for the people”. In her mission letter, von der Leyen made it clear that this means that social rights, protection and fairness should be put at the heart of our modern economy. She asks Dombrovskis to coordinate the work on the action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. Further, she wants him to prioritise the relationship with the social partners and lead the work on strengthening the role of social dialogue at European level. He therefore will basically keep the old competence of social dialogue and continue to prepare the Tripartite Social Summits.

Also, von der Leyen’s mission letter to Schmit makes it clear what the priorities of the future Commission will be. She asks him (o.a.) :

  • To develop an action plan to implement the Social Pillar, working closely with the Member States and fully respecting the subsidiarity principle.
  • To put forward a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in our Union has a fair minimum wage. This can be set through collective agreements or legal provisions, depending on each country’s traditions.
  • To closely monitor and enforce existing EU law Dignified, transparent and predictable working conditions and to look at ways to improve the labour conditions of platform workers.
  • To contribute to the design of a European Unemployment Benefit Reinsurance Scheme to protect our citizens and reduce the pressure on public finances during external shocks, working closely with the Commissioner for the Economy.
  • To establish and support the work of the new European Labour Authority.
  • To promote social dialogue and engage with social partners at the EU level across all of our priorities.
  • To ensure we make the most of the potential of the future European Social Fund+. It should be operational on day one and help create employment, improve productivity at work and enhance labour mobility.
  • To work closely with Member States to strengthen social protection systems in Europe, notably by using the European Semester to monitor progress and identify areas for improvement.

Finally, it also looks like the important recast of the Social Security Coordination Regulation will continue to be high on the wish-list of the next Commission. Therefore, it is expected that von der Leyen, Schmit and Dombrovskis will follow the line of the Juncker Commission to deliver a stronger social Europe.