On Tuesday 8 September, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that European Commission Executive Vice President, Valdis Dombrovskis, will be the new EU trade commissioner after the shock departure of Ireland’s Phil Hogan in August. The appointments signal the first reshuffle for the Commission President since she took office.
Mr Hogan resigned following revelations that he flouted the coronavirus lockdown measures in Ireland, the aftershock being that Ireland has lost the EU trade portfolio.
Mr Dombrovskis had already been in temporary charge of trade since Mr Hogan’s departure. EU diplomats predicted his appointment in view of his governmental experience and that he was a leading commissioner from the centre-right European People’s party, Ms von der Leyen’s own political family. Mr Dombrovskis will be presented with challenges such as negotiations with post-Brexit Britain, finalising a trade deal with Brazil as well as trade talks with the United States and China.
Mairead McGuinness, the first vice-president of the European parliament, was also confirmed as the new Irish commissioner with responsibility for financial services and financial stability - this portfolio having been removed from Mr Dombrovskis’ current responsibilities.
However, Ms von der Leyen clarified that Mr Dombrovskis would continue to attend monthly Eurogroup meetings of euro area finance ministers, in view of his oversight over EU economic policy, as well as remaining executive vice-president.
Both appointees will attend confirmation hearings with the European parliament in their new roles.