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The front-runners for the next European Commission

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The European Commission’s top jobs will all soon be up for grabs again after next month’s European election. 

Which country will get the all-powerful trade commissioner job and oversee the EU’s impending trade war with China? Will the Poles secure a newly created defense portfolio to square up to their arch-rivals the Russians? And who will get to police U.S. tech giants like Apple and Google as Europe’s next competition chief?

Even before the June 6-9 election, maneuvering is underway to net the prize slots. 

Each of the EU’s 27 countries gets a commissioner job in the highly political post-election carve-up, but there’s a tooth-and-nail fight to determine who gets what. Trade and competition are the blue-ribbon portfolios with genuine power; those involving sport, education and multilingualism are the kiss of death.   

Last time round, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asked each country to put forward two candidates — a man and a woman. If she comes back for a second term, we can expect the same process. 

It’s still early days, but POLITICO is here to guide you through the runners and riders being mentioned in political and diplomatic circles.

SELECT A COUNTRY

Austria

Minister for the EU and Constitution Karoline Edtstadler. | Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE

Name(s) in the mix: Karoline Edtstadler (EU minister) — European People’s Party.

Who has the job now: Johannes Hahn (Budget).

Desired portfolio: Enlargement.

Who makes the nomination: Chancellor Karl Nehammer — European People’s Party.

Belgium

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Names in the mix: Alexander De Croo (current prime minister) — liberals; Elio Di Rupo (minister-president of Wallonia) — Party of European Socialists; Paul Magnette (president of the Francophone Socialist Party) — Party of European Socialists; Frank Vandenbroucke (health minister) — Party of European Socialists; Sophie Wilmès (Belgian MP) — liberals. 

Caveat: The Belgian election on June 9 and the political uncertainty expected afterward make it difficult to predict which party will be able to nominate the country’s European commissioner.

Who has the job now: Didier Reynders (Justice).

Desired portfolio: Unclear, as it depends on who gets the nod. 

Who makes the nomination:  In theory, outgoing Prime Minister De Croo (liberals), but the parties who win the Belgian election will want a say as the nomination for the European Commission is normally a part of coalition negotiations.

Bulgaria

MEP Eva Maydell. | Mathieu Cugnot/European Parliament

Name(s) in the mix: Bulgaria holds a parliamentary election on June 9, the same day as the European election, which makes it hard to predict who will be nominated. One to watch will be MEP Eva Maydell, a specialist in digital affairs and artificial intelligence, from the GERB party, which looks set to be first past the post in the election.

Who has the job now: Iliana Ivanova (Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth).

Desired portfolio: Unclear. 

Who makes the nomination: The new Bulgarian prime minister, who will be decided after the election.

Croatia

Dubravka Šuica, European commissioner for democracy and demography. | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Dubravka Šuica (commissioner for democracy and demography) — European People’s Party.

Long shot to get the gig: Andrej Plenković (prime minister) — European People’s Party. Plenković could pop up as an alternative to von der Leyen if she fails to secure a second term, but is unlikely to come to Brussels for a “normal” commissioner portfolio.

Who has the job now: Dubravka Šuica (Democracy and Demography).

Desired portfolio: Unclear.

Who makes the nomination: Prime Minister Plenković — European People’s Party.

Cyprus

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. | Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE

Name(s) in the mix: Stella Kyriakides (commissioner for health and food safety) —European People’s Party; Harris Georgiades (former finance minister) — European People’s Party; George Lakkotrypis (former energy minister) — European People’s Party; Constantinos Kombos (foreign minister) — not affiliated.

Who has the job now: Kyriakides (Health and Food Safety).

Desired portfolio: Perhaps health again. The Cypriot shipping lobby is pushing for the transport portfolio. 

Who makes the nomination: Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides — European People’s Party.

What we’re hearing: For months, the expectation was that President Christodoulides would replace Kyriakides as the Cypriot commissioner. In Brussels her track record was also seen as mixed at best. However, as we inch closer to the election, the chances are growing she will secure a second term, as it would be more difficult to balance grumbling from other aspirants.

Czech Republic

Danuše Nerudová | Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) via Wikipedia

Name(s) in the mix: Danuše Nerudová (former presidential candidate) — European People’s Party; Marcel Kolaja (MEP for the Czech Pirate party) — The Greens/EFA; Marek Mora (deputy finance minister).

Long shot to get the gig: Trade Minister Jozef Síkela is no newbie in EU circles. He has played a key role in coordinating Europe’s response to soaring energy prices since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Who has the job now: Věra Jourová (Vice President, Values and Transparency).

What we’re hearing: According to an unofficial deal in the government coalition, the right to nominate the next commissioner should go to coalition partners STAN, who want Danuše Nerudová for the economic portfolio, or to the Pirates, who would like to see Kolaja as internal market commissioner. But PM Petr Fiala has the final word on the nomination, and has been pushing Síkela and Mora forward as candidates.

Desired portfolio: Energy, economy, internal market and defense.

Who makes the nomination: Prime Minister Fiala — European Conservatives and Reformists.

Denmark

Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s climate minister. | Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Name(s) in the mix: Global Climate Policy and Development Minister Dan Jørgensen or Business Minister Morten Bødskov — (both Party of European Socialists).

Who has the job now: Margrethe Vestager (Executive Vice President, Competition).

Desired portfolio: Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager knows her chances for a third term at the EU executive are slim. “The chances of me becoming a commissioner are not that large. I can see that reading the tea leaves,” she told Danish TV2. The Danish government hasn’t backed her — or any candidate so far — for another term, even though she has touted the possibility of running again.

With Vestager expected to leave, the Danes may be hard-pressed to get anything as juicy as her portfolio, so those eyeing big jobs like trade could be disappointed.

Who makes the nomination: Mette Frederiksen (Party of European Socialists) is leading a coalition government. She has been vocal on questions of foreign affairs and defense at the European level — and is herself tipped as a potential European Council president. 

Estonia

Kaja Kallas. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Kaja Kallas (prime minister) — liberals.

Long shot to get the gig: Urmas Paet (Reform Party MEP) — liberals.

Who has the job now: Kadri Simson (Energy) — liberals.

Desired portfolio: Kallas’ name is widely circulated as the EU’s next foreign policy chief, but that will depend on the balance of other European top jobs. 

Who makes the nomination: Prime Minister Kallas — liberals.

Finland

MEP Henna Virkkunen. | EP

Name(s) in the mix: Henna Virkkunen, an MEP since 2014, ultra-marathon runner and horse enthusiast from the ruling National Coalition party (European People’s Party). She is running again. 

Long shot to get the gig: Elina Valtonen, foreign minister, from the same party.

Who has the job now: Jutta Urpilainen (International Partnerships).

Desired portfolio: Competitiveness, as Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told POLITICO in March. Also: security and defense, enlargement, circular economy and clean transition. 

Who makes the nomination: Orpo (European People’s Party), who is governing with the far-right Finns party (European Conservatives and Reformists). 

What we’re hearing: Virkkunen told POLITICO: “It’s too early to speculate, but of course it’s a very important job to be a commissioner and I’m willing to consider that after the elections if Prime Minister Orpo proposes that.”

We’ve also heard that Orpo only wants to nominate someone who is running to be an MEP. 

France

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton. | Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Thierry Breton (commissioner for internal market) — liberals, Bruno Le Maire (finance minister) — liberals.

Long shot to get the gig: Elisabeth Borne (French MP and former prime minister).

Who has the job now: Breton (Internal Market).

Desired portfolio: As part of its big push for strategic autonomy, Paris is eyeing the crown jewel of the next Commission: a powerful economic/industrial policy post, which could include competition policy, spearheading the bloc’s new focus on competitiveness. 

Who makes the nomination:  French President Emmanuel Macron — liberals.

What we’re hearing: Breton is in the running, but given attacks over his record running French company Atos, Macron may be looking for alternatives. One option? Finance Minister Le Maire, who said he’s not interested in the role. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? 

Germany

Ursula von der Leyen. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Ursula von der Leyen (Commission president) — European People’s Party.

Long shot to get the gig: What happens if EU leaders decide they don’t want VDL II, or if the European Parliament won’t back her? How about a regular commissioner job for Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock?

Who has the job now: Von der Leyen (President).

Desired portfolio: Commission president.

Who makes the nomination: European heads of state and government.

Greece

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas. | Julien Warnand/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Margaritis Schinas (Commission vice president, promoting the European way of life) — European People’s Party; Niki Kerameus (interior minister) — European People’s Party; Stavros Papastavrou (ex-minister of state) — European People’s Party; George Gerapetritis (foreign minister) — European People’s Party. 

Who has the job now: Schinas (Commission VP, Promoting the European Way of Life).

Desired portfolio: Migration, defense.

Who makes the nomination: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis — European People’s Party. 

What we’re hearing: Chances are high Mitsotakis will decide to keep Schinas in Brussels for a second term, especially if von der Leyen stays on as well.

Hungary

Commission’s neighborhood chief Olivér Várhelyi. | Julien Warnand/EPA-EFE

Name(s) in the mix: Olivér Várhelyi (commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement), Enikő Győri (MEP).

Long shot to get the gig: Győri, who’s running in ninth spot on the Fidesz list, could be a sensible pick as Hungary prepares to take over the rotating presidency in July. She played a key role in Hungary’s first EU Council presidency in 2011 when she was its secretary of state for European affairs. She was ambassador in Rome and Madrid, and speaks English, French and Italian.

Who has the job now: Várhelyi (Neighbourhood and Enlargement), best known for his close ties to Serbia and his audible description of MEPs as “idiots.”

Desired portfolio: Enlargement.

Who makes the nomination: Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is currently without any political alignment on the European stage, having left the EPP in a rule-of-law spat in 2021.

What we’re hearing: In 2019, Orbán didn’t get his first pick for commissioner, László Trócsányi, past the Parliament. Would he want to risk another scrap now?

Ireland

Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael McGrath and Ireland’s Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe prior to presenting the 2024 Irish budget to parliament. | Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Michael McGrath (finance minister) — liberals, reportedly tipped as a frontrunner.

Long shot to get the gig: Deputy Prime Minister and former PM Micheál Martin — liberals; Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue — liberals.

Who has the job now: Mairead McGuinness (Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union).

Desired portfolio: Financial services.

Who makes the nomination: The Irish coalition government. Fine Gael got the job last time when they initially nominated Phil Hogan and later replaced him with McGuinness, so now it’s likely to be Fianna Fáil’s turn. 

Italy

Italy’s Agricultural Minister Francesco Lollobrigida is also Giorgia Meloni brother-in-law. | Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Raffaele Fitto (minister for European affairs) — European Conservatives and Reformists; Francesco Lollobrigida (minister of agriculture) — European Conservatives and Reformists; Antonio Tajani — European People’s Party; Adolfo Urso (minister of economic development) — European Conservatives and Reformists; Guido Crosetto (minister of defense) — European Conservatives and Reformists.

Long shot to get the gig: Former Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s name is often mentioned for European top jobs, but he is unlikely to be willing to be “just” an ordinary European commissioner. 

Who has the job now: Paolo Gentiloni (Economy).

Desired portfolio: A large economic portfolio, which would also make sense for Fitto.

Who makes the nomination: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni — European Conservatives and Reformists.

Latvia

Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Valdis Dombrovskis (Commission executive vice president) — European People’s Party.

Who has the job now: Dombrovskis (Executive VP, Trade).

Desired portfolio:  Dombrovskis already has a large portfolio and a very good relationship with von der Leyen. Another internal market portfolio could be an option, or potentially something Ukraine-related.  

Who makes the nomination: Latvian Prime Minister Evika Siliņa — European People’s Party.

Lithuania

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. | Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Gabrielius Landsbergis (foreign minister) — European People’s Party. 

Who has the job now: Virginijus Sinkevičius (Environment, Oceans and Fisheries).

Desired portfolio: Landsbergis is eying a foreign policy-related portfolio.

Who makes the nomination:  The government makes nomination, with the consent of the Parliament and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda — no party affiliation.

Luxembourg

Christophe Hansen. | Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Christophe Hansen (Luxembourg MP) — European People’s Party, Nicolas Schmit (commissioner for jobs and social rights) — Party of European Socialists.

Long shot to get the gig: The Luxembourg coalition parties have agreed to send Hansen to Brussels as their next commissioner. However, if von der Leyen would prefer to have Schmit stay on, she could potentially persuade Luxembourg Prime Minister Luc Frieden by dangling a more important portfolio for Schmit.

Who has the job now: Schmit (Jobs and Social Rights).

Desired portfolio: Financial services is key for Luxembourg. Hansen has a more economic profile, while social issues are more important for Schmit.

Who makes the nomination: Luxembourg PM Frieden — European People’s Party.

Malta

Miriam Dalli during a conference on Schengen. | European Parliament

Name(s) in the mix: Miriam Dalli (environment and energy minister) — Party of European Socialists.

Long shot to get the gig: Chris Fearne resigned from government earlier this month, ending his candidacy to be the country’s next European commissioner after a judicial document revealed he will face charges of fraud and misappropriation.

Who has the job now: Helena Dalli (Equality).

Desired portfolio: Unclear.

Who makes the nomination: Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela — Party of European Socialists.

Netherlands

Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra. | Andres Martinez Casares/EFE via EPA

Name(s) in the mix: Wopke Hoekstra (commissioner for climate) — European People’s Party.

Who has the job now: Hoekstra (Climate Action).

Desired portfolio: Unclear, due to the ongoing political bargaining in the Netherlands. The commissioner job also partly depends on whether outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte clinches the NATO top job. 

Who makes the nomination: The incoming Dutch right-wing coalition and its prime minister, who is yet to be named. The new government is a coalition between Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) along with the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), the right-wing populist Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) and the centrist New Social Contract (NSC). Hoekstra’s party is no longer part of the coalition, potentially making it hard for him to stay on — unless they can’t agree among themselves. 

Poland

Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. | Olivier Hoslet/EFE via EPA

Name(s) in the mix: Radosław Sikorski (foreign minister) — European People’s Party

Who has the job now: Janusz Wojciechowski (Agriculture).

Desired portfolio: Sikorski is the clear front-runner for a future defense portfolio. Enlargement could also make sense for Poland, given the portfolio’s increased importance in the next Commission and Poland’s support for Ukraine’s EU accession. 

Who makes the nomination: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk — European People’s Party, who is in a good position to ask for a big portfolio, given the size of his country and his support for von der Leyen.

Portugal

Miguel Poiares Maduro. | Julien Warnand/EPA

Name(s) in the mix: Miguel Poiares Maduro, a former regional development minister, and Maria Luísa Albuquerque, a former finance minister. Both are tied to the center-right PSD, which is part of the European People’s Party.

Long shot to get the gig: Former MEP Paulo Rangel was considered to be in the running but has now been made foreign minister in the new center-right government. Porto Mayor Rui Moreira, an independent, is another long shot. 

Who has the job now: Elisa Ferreira (Cohesion and Reforms)

Desired portfolio: Unclear, but some are nostalgic for Carlos Moedas, who had the research portfolio.

Who makes the nomination: Portugal’s Prime Minister Luís Montenegro from the center-right Social Democrats, who’s leading a minority coalition.

Romania

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis. | Pool photo by Hannack McKay/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Klaus Iohannis (president) — European People’s Party

Long shot to get the gig: With his second term ending in December, Iohannis is looking for a top international job. But it’s unclear whether he would settle for a “mere” commissioner slot.

Who has the job now: Adina-Ioana Vălean (Transport).

Desired portfolio: Unclear. Cohesion could be an option.

Who makes the nomination: President Iohannis — European People’s Party.

Slovakia

European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič. | John Thys/AFP via Getty images

Name(s) in the mix:  Maroš Šefčovič (first vice president and executive vice president, European Green Deal, inter institutional relations and foresight) — Party of European Socialists. He would be the obvious pick to guarantee a weighty portfolio. 

Long shot to get the gig: Miroslav Lajčák, a diplomat who is currently the EU’s special representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and the Western Balkans.

Who has the job now: Šefčovič (Green Deal Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight).

Desired portfolio: It’s unclear what Slovakia could aim for at this stage. 

Who makes the nomination: PM Robert Fico leads a leftist-populist coalition government. After Fico survived a May 15 assassination attempt, however, the EU election campaign was put on hold, so Slovakia’s next Commission pick is likely far from people’s minds.

Slovenia

Tomaž Vesel. | Felipe Trueba/EFE via EPA

Name(s) in the mix: Tomaž Vesel, a former president of the Slovenian court of auditors and an ally of Prime Minister Robert Golob — liberals.

Long shot to get the gig: No one else is being mentioned.

Who has the job now: Janez Lenarčič (Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management).

Desired portfolio: Democracy, finance or competition.

Who makes the nomination: PM Golob (liberals) has already publicly named Vesel as his desired pick, and his coalition partners don’t seem opposed.

What we’re hearing: Golob might need to present a female candidate as well.

Spain

Spanish Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera. | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Name(s) in the mix: Teresa Ribera, ecological transition minister and, for a time, deputy PM in Spain’s Socialist-led government. Also lead candidate for the EU election — Party of European Socialists.

Long shot to get the gig: There isn’t one.

Who has the job now: Josep Borrell (Foreign Affairs and Security Policy).

Desired portfolio: Green Deal, climate, energy.

Who makes the nomination: Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez — Party of European Socialists.

What we’re hearing: Ribera may be running for the European Parliament but don’t be fooled, it’s the Commission she’s got her eye on — and she has attacked von der Leyen’s Green Deal legacy and shift to the right.

Sweden

Minister for EU Affairs Jessika Roswall. | Stephanie Lecocq/EFE via EPA

Name(s) in the mix: Jessika Roswall (EU affairs minister) — European People’s Party, Carl Bildt (former prime minister) — European People’s Party, Tomas Tobé — European People’s Party.

Who has the job now: Ylva Johansson (Home Affairs).

Desired portfolio: Unclear.

Who makes the nomination: Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson  — European People’s Party.

Barbara Moens, Eddy Wax, Antonia Zimmermann, Camille Gijs, Paul Dallison, Koen Verhelst, Stuart Lau, Joshua Posaner, Federica Di Sario, Victor Jack, Clothilde Goujard, Ketrin Jochecová, Clea Caulcutt, Nektaria Stamouli, Aitor Hernández-Morales, Jakob Hanke Vela, Karl Mathiesen, Gian Volpicelli, Suzanne Lynch, Kathryn Carlson, Jacopo Barigazzi, Nicholas Vinocur contributed to this article.

This story has been updated.

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