Looking at the von der Leyen Commission from an older people’s perspective
von der Leyen Commission 2019-2024
On 27 November 2019 the European Parliament finally approved the new European Commission with 461 votes in favour, 157 against and 89 abstentions. The day after the European Council officially appointed von der Leyen’s team for 5 years.
Many articles have been published on the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen, but from the point of view of a self-advocacy organisation of older persons, what is in it?
An organigramme designed around six priorities
The new College has eight Vice-Presidents. The Vice-Presidents are responsible for the top priorities in the Political Guidelines:
- The European Green Deal (Frans Timmermans),
- A Europe fit for the digital age (Margrethe Vestgager),
- An economy that works for people (Vladis Dombrovskis),
- Promoting our European way of life (Margaritis Schinas),
- A stronger Europe in the world (Josep Borell)
- A new push for European democracy (Maroš Šefčovič, Věra Jourová and Dubravka Šuica).
The 18 other Commissioners either report back directly to the President or to one or two Vice-Presidents. For example, Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice is reporting to Věra Jourová. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth is reporting to both Margaritis Schinas and Margrethe Vestager.
While this structure is pretty complicated and requires to have a clear picture of these overall relationships, it could help to break silos and to have a more comprehensive approach on key issues.
Why do we have good reasons to be optimistic?
For the first time ever, a portfolio is dedicated to Democracy and Demography. The nomination of Dubravka Šuica echoes AGE’s call for a dedicated commissioner to coordinate the European Commission’s policies on demographic change. Based on her mission letter, Ms Šuica made a clear and strong commitment:
“I will put forward a Green Paper on ageing to assess what can and needs to be done, notably to foster active ageing and look at whether our social protection systems are fit for an older population. This will be done in close cooperation with this House, and of course with Member States, who have the competencies in most of these areas”.
Extract from D. Šuica’s speech at her hearing - European Parliament (3 October 2019)
Ms Šuica will also have a key role to play to launch and coordinate the Conference on the Future of Europe, closing the gap with citizens and getting them on board.
The Conference will take the shape of a two-year public European forum in which major issues for Europe’s future will be addressed, including the EU’s role in the globalised world, the relationship between federal citizenships and national identities, the fight against inequality and sustainable development goals.
Another important innovation within the new European Commission is the nomination of Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, again a new portfolio which is key to ensure a coordinated approach across the different discrimination grounds and to put additional pressure on EU Member States to unblock the Equal Treatment Directive, held up for 10 years by the European Council:
“Your task over the next five years is to strengthen Europe’s commitment to inclusion and equality in all of its senses, irrespective of sex, racial or ethnic origin, age, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief. I want you to be active across the Union to raise awareness and promote equality.”
Extract from the mission letter addressed to Helena Dalli (1 December 2019)
Other Commissioners and portfolio are of course key to our work and here is an overview:
- Executive Vice-President for An Economy that works for people, Valdis Dombrovskis: supervision of financial services, coordination of the action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, alignment of the European Semester with the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit: development of the action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, European semester and social protection.
- Commission for Justice, Didier Reynders: consumer protection (notably cross-border online transactions), data protection, human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, protection of rights for EU citizens.
- Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides: supply of affordable medicine, regulation of medical devices, European Health Data space, anti-microbial resistance, vaccination and cancer plan.
- Commissioner for Transport, Adina-Ioana Vălean : strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, passengers’ rights.
- Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the digital age, Margrethe Vestager: European approach on Artificial Intelligence.
- Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel: Horizon Europe Programme, Erasmus+, European research area.
This list is obviously not exhaustive and highlights issues which are highly critical for AGE. For instance the initiatives to be delivered around the European Green Deal, aimed to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050, are also very important to ensure healthy environments for all, including older persons.
Multiple opportunities for AGE
From the information we have so far, there are several hooks for AGE and its members:
- To promote a rights-based approach and include specific actions to address ageism and age discrimination in old age;
- To link actions on demographic change with climate and sustainable development i.e. Agenda 2030 and SDGs;
- Towards a more concrete implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights;
- To Make the European Semester more social;
- To influence EU initiatives around new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence and topics across related sectors e.g. health and care, mobility and smart cities, disinformation, web accessibility.
The next weeks will be crucial to understand how the European Commission and its services will be organised.
For more information
- Website of the European Commission: von der Leyen’s team
- Analysis of the hearings of the candidate Commissioners by the European Parliament (key commitments, verbatim of the hearings)
- Website of the European Parliament dedicated to the new European Commission
- Quizz Game from Politico
In making demographic change, non-discrimination, civil dialogue and environmental sustainability its top priorities, the new European Commission has echoed the call we have made throughout the EU election process (see articles below). We now hope this new mandate will lead to tangible results for all Europeans and we will be pleased to support the European Commission in their efforts.
- AGE welcomes the designation of an EU Vice-President Commissioner for Democracy and Demography!
- New European Commission: towards a more age-friendly EU?
- A new European Commission is taking shape – What does it mean for older people?
- Please commit to a Europe for all ages! AGE members urge Commission President candidate
- We need non-discrimination, civil dialogue, sustainable future & intergenerational cooperation as Commission's top priorities!
by Julia Wadoux