Politics

The new EU leadership is in limbo after lawmakers reject three new members

Key Points
  • The outgoing team at the European Commission will now stay in office for longer but with restricted powers.
  • Throughout Europe's history, three incoming administrations have had to delay their first day in office.
  • This latest postponement does not have a clear end in sight and takes place at a time when the EU faces critical challenges, from international trade, to long-term budget plans as well as Brexit.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 18: President of European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen arrives at European Parliament on October 18, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium.
Pier Marco Tacca | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A new European Commission was due to take the reins in Brussels Friday, but a series of political setbacks have meant that a new administration is not starting for, at least, another month.

Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission — the EU's executive branch — presented her team in September. However, 3 out of her 27 appointees were rejected when scrutinized by European lawmakers last month – meaning that von der Leyen is unable to start her new role on November 1, as initially scheduled.

The outgoing team at the European Commission will now stay in office for longer but with restricted powers.

"As on previous occasions in such cases, the Commission's powers are limited to dealing with current business, continuing the day-to-day administration of ongoing files and procedures without pre-empting the political choices of the upcoming Commission," a spokesperson for the current executive told CNBC via email Thursday.

Throughout Europe's history, three incoming administrations have had to delay their first day in office.

This latest postponement does not have a clear end in sight and takes place at a time when the EU faces critical challenges, from international trade, to long-term budget plans as well as Brexit.

Waiting on Romania and the UK

European lawmakers said no to individuals nominated by France, Hungary and Romania, citing conflict of interests.

In the meantime, France has proposed a new name for von der Leyen's commission: Thierry Breton – a former finance minister and software executive. And Hungary has selected Oliver Varhelyi, an ambassador to the EU to work with von der Leyen. However, both candidates have yet to be approved by the European Parliament.

Romania has not yet selected any other candidate to Brussels, after its government collapsed earlier this month – which could delay even further the starting date for Ursula von der Leyen.

Meanwhile, the U.K. – which was set to leave the EU the day before the new commission would start on October 31 – has received a three-month extension to leave the EU. The EU has reminded the U.K. that for as long as it remains a full member of the European Union, it needs to select a commissioner to Brussels too. This candidate would also have to be approved by the European Parliament before the new commission could take over.

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