MADRID – Before his appointment as EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker was pilloried as an old-school federalist who would do little to alter the status quo. But the new structure that he has imposed on the Commission implies a radical overhaul of how things are done in Brussels.
Up to now, a focus on who has been appointed to what post – in particular, the appointment of the relatively inexperienced Federica Mogherini as EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy – has overshadowed the Commission’s structural transformation. But individual commissioners are far less important than the trends that have caused the Commission to shift its priorities from enlargement and the internal market toward energy and monetary union.
One such trend is Europeans’ growing skepticism toward integration, exemplified in May’s European Parliament election. With newer European Union members backsliding – Romania on the rule of law, Bulgaria in corruption, and Hungary on democratic norms under Viktor Orbán’s government – now is the time, or so it seems, to focus on existing members.
Reinforcing this shift is Turkey’s drift toward authoritarianism, which is undermining the viability of its candidacy for EU membership. As for Ukraine, recent gestures of solidarity, such as the signing of an association agreement, are unlikely to develop into anything substantial in the foreseeable future.