EU Commission

Role of the Vice-Presidents

The European Commission has 28 members, every state is represented through a Commissioner. The Commissioner from Luxemburg, Jean-Claude Juncker, is the President of the European Commission. His deputies are nominated by the Commission President and they are provided with additional tasks. The Vice-Presidents have higher salaries due to their additional function. Originally, Juncker nominated seven Vice-Presidents – amongst them compulsory the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. After the change of Commissioner and Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva to the World Bank, Juncker decided not to elect a new Vice-President instead.

Before, people in Brussels thought that the German Commissioner Günther Öttinger, who become responsible for the dossiers – budget and staff – of Kristalina Georgieva, would become the new Vice-President. However, Juncker decided against it. The reasons can be manifold. If for instance Öttinger would have become a Vice-President, there would have been only one woman left within the seven Vice-Presidents. Juncker strives for gender equality and the appointment of Öttinger as Vice-President would not have been an appropriate step in this direction. Another assumption would be that the reduction of the number of Vice-Presidents would be a sign towards the person of Günther Öttinger. The German Commissioner for instance used a rather demoting expression for Chinese people last year. In addition, he travelled to a meeting with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Urban by using a private jet, owned by a lobbyist close to Russia’s Kremlin. If it seems to be that easy for Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to reduce the number of his Vice-Presidents, the question arises, what their tasks are.

The first Vice-President represents the President if he is absent. If the first Vice-President would be absent as well, the second Vice-President takes over. Thus, there is a certain sequence within the Vice-Presidents. The Commission President shall also be represented in his tasks to lead and manage the workflow of the members of the Commission and the calling of meetings. The first Vice-President has the task to make sure that all proposals of the Commission are in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. As deputy of the President the Vice-President monitors the relations of the European Commission to the other EU institutions. In addition, all Vice-Presidents are leading specific project teams, which are leading and coordinating the tasks of other Commissioners. This shall enable a better interaction within the whole EU-Commission. The Vice-Presidents thus have an important function but it may be the case that also the reduced number of Vice-Presidents is enough to fulfil all duties and responsibilities.