Earlier this year, the European Commission elections shook up the continents politics with the voters’ newfound support for broadly “Euro-skeptic” parties. As a result, the Euro-skeptics now make up about a fourth of the European Parliament. And while the traditional pro-Europe parties still have large majorities and control over the levers of governance, it is up to newly elected European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to steer Europe through a time of increasing frustration with the European project itself.

A major part of Juncker’s plan is the restructuring and redefining of the European Commission, with the goal of creating an entity more able to rally political support for the EU and its priorities. The Commission college will now be organized around project teams which are streamlined for what Juncker’s administration hopes will be greater government efficiency. To some observers, such a bold reorganization of the college is something that could “make or break” the European experiment.

Indeed, the incoming European Commission is attempting to redefine the tone of what a commission in Europe should strive for.

Earlier this year, the European Commission elections shook up the continents politics with the voters’ newfound support for broadly “Euro-skeptic” parties. As a result, the Euro-skeptics now make up about a fourth of the European Parliament. And while the traditional pro-Europe parties still have large majorities and control over the levers of governance, it is up to newly elected European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to steer Europe through a time of increasing frustration with the European project itself.

A major part of Juncker’s plan is the restructuring and redefining of the European Commission, with the goal of creating an entity more able to rally political support for the EU and its priorities. The Commission college will now be organized around project teams which are streamlined for what Juncker’s administration hopes will be greater government efficiency. To some observers, such a bold reorganization of the college is something that could “make or break” the European experiment.

Indeed, the incoming European Commission is attempting to redefine the tone of what a commission in Europe should strive for. This new commission is a stockpile of experience, comprised of 18 former ministers and prime ministers, but in Juncker’s vision, “in the new Commission, there are no first or second Commissioners – there are team leaders and team players. They will work together in the spirit of collegiality and interdependence. I want to overcome silo-mentalities and introduce a new collaborative way of working in areas Europe can really make a difference.”

In accordance with this mentality, Juncker has streamlined the portfolios in a number of ways. Environmental issues, for instance, will be included in the Energy policy portfolio as well as the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs portfolio. Miguel Arias Cañete, the former Spanish agricultural minister, will serve as the first commissioner for Climate Action and Energy – although some critics are quick to point out that Cañete has little experience in the energy sector.

With natural gas and petroleum shortages looming due to potential Russian cutoffs, Cañete will need to be quick to answer the needs of this volatile position. He will have some help with the environmental section thanks to Karmenu Vella, who has been tapped to be Commissioner of Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. The collaboration between Vella and Cañete will be a lynchpin for Europe’s energy policy in the coming months and years.

Other critical positions include that of Trade Commissioner, the High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Chief of Economic Affairs, and Financial Services Commissioner.

Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström, as the next EU Trade Commissioner, has the job of closing a historic trade and investment partnership with the United States while addressing European concerns about personal privacy, food quality, cultural and data protection. The good news is that despite her lack of experience, she is known for building relationships and consensus in tough situations. Malmström is a proponent of free trade agreements and there is little evidence to suggest any change in the strategy Karel de Gucht established when setting the US-EU negotiations into place.  

Then there is the controversial appointment of Italy’s former Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini as the EU foreign affairs chief. The 41 year old, who has risen quickly to prominence in European politics, had Eastern European members concerned over her lack of a strong stance against Russian aggression and Italy’s close trade ties with Russia. But her over twenty years of experience working in foreign affairs, her role as a prominent woman in a male-dominated field, and the selection of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as President of the EU Council as a counterbalance, allowed for her approval.

France also received a major portfolio. As incoming Chief of Economics Affiars, France’s Pierre Moscovici will police the national budgets of EU member states, and critics (many in Germany) are quick to point out that France has not itself met its deficit goals for consecutive years. Yet with restructuring of portfolios, it is unlikely that Moscovici will be able to have the authority that his predecessor did – the position is now overseen by the newly created Vice President for Jobs and Growth. And holding that position is Jyrki Katainen, from Finland, who is known for preferring strict fiscal policies.

Finally, there is the issue of financial sector regulation – an area increasingly growing in importance. The UK’s Jonathan Hill is an unexpected pick for overseeing financial services – there is a certain irony to a British Commissioner overseeing the financial services sector when the UK is not part of the European monetary system. But what Hill’s nomination does signify is a determination by the EU to keep the UK involved in high level European policy matters, given that the UK has often diverged from the broader EU consensus on monetary and financial matters.

What is clear is that Juncker is pulling together a European Commission with major political experience, but only time will reveal how revolutionary his vision will be. While some critics may be correct that the political maneuvering that led to the selection of commissioners will undermine the authority of the EU, regardless Juncker has succeeded in putting together a government under very difficult conditions. Now he must find a way to address the many concerns of the European public.