A week after MEPs rejected Slovenia's nominee as commissioner, incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled a restructured line-up yesterday, moving the new Slovenian commissioner-designate to the transport portfolio.
Violeta Bulc was nominated by the Slovenian government after MEPs rejected former prime minister Alenka Bratusek last week after she failed to impress members of the European Parliament's environment committee and industry, research and energy committee.
Mr Juncker confirmed yesterday that Ms Bulc will be assigned the transport portfolio, which had previously been earmarked for the Slovak nominee, Maros Sefcovic. He has been elevated to the position of vice-president for energy union, which had been originally offered to Slovenia.
The switch means both Mr Sefcovic and Ms Bulc must appear before their relevant committees for approval in time for next week’s scheduled vote by the parliament on the commission. Their hearings are likely to be set for Monday afternoon in Strasbourg, sources said yesterday.
However, the vote could be delayed until the second week of November, which would mean a two-week delay in the appointment of the new commission, which had been scheduled to take up office on November 1st. A spokesman for Mr Juncker said yesterday he could not confirm if the commission would be in place by that date.
There are also expectations that further changes will be announced by Mr Juncker in the coming days. While Hungary's nominee, Tibor Navracsics, who was nominated as commissioner for education, youth, culture and citizenship, was approved by MEPs to become the next Hungarian commissioner, the European Parliament has demanded citizenship be removed from his portfolio.
Mr Juncker interviewed Ms Bulc – a telecoms entrepreneur who has been a member of the new Slovenian government for less than a month – on Tuesday in Brussels. A spokesman for Mr Juncker yesterday said the incoming president had had an “excellent meeting” with Ms Bulc.
“Ms Bulc came across as a straightforward, well-prepared person, with an impressive quality to learn fast. Mr Juncker had the assurances he needed to present to the council Ms Bulc as commissioner-designate in his team,” he said.
Mr Juncker has been liaising closely with senior figures in the parliament over the past week on the restructured commission, raising expectations that Ms Bulc will be approved.