Brussels, 12 September 2019 – On Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the European Commission, announced the different portfolios and Commissioners-designate for the future College of Commissioners. CONCORD Europe recognises that the new architecture is based on strong political intentions but has concerns about how sustainable development will realistically be implemented throughout the different portfolios.
If we put aside the inevitable power balance between the Member States in the proposed architecture , we can see that von der Leyen has tried to bring Europe closer to citizens with more friendly job titles. But how much of what lies behind those titles really marks the needed break from the past? . The composition tries to address a number of the world’s challenges and offers clear and narrowed portfolios like digitalisation and equality. However, when one looks at the detail of the mission letters, in many areas, like ‘An Economy that Works for the People” or indeed Equality, they read like a missed opportunity. And possibly a lack of understanding of the depth and breadth of the challenge. At least von der Leyen is continuing the requirement for Commissioners to work together (“one team”), which is exactly what the Sustainable Development Goals demand of our leaders.
Despite the fact the SDGs are part of each Commissioner’s portfolio, von der Leyen should state clearly that she will ultimately be responsible for the overall implementation of the 2030 Agenda, not the whole Commission jointly. Unfortunately it’s not at all clear how the SDGs will be translated into actions. That’s very disappointing.
We really hope that there will be a better balance between achieving sustainable development and promoting Europe’s interests over the next five years.
Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner-designate for International Partnerships, will have a strong focus on Africa with, among other priorities, the drafting of a new comprehensive strategy for Africa. While gender equality and the inclusion of civil society will be high on her agenda, which CONCORD welcomes, Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development and Human Rights are completely absent from the light-touch Mission Letter.
Development is more than just partnerships. Not including policy coherence is a major oversight, given the potential for other policy areas, like trade and agriculture, to undermine sustainable development in the EU’s partner countries.
CONCORD stands ready to work together with the future Commissioners to create and implement a transformative agenda putting well-being for all people within planetary boundaries at its heart.