Who will be in charge of the next round of EU funds?

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​President-elect Ursula von der Leyen presented her team and the new structure of the next European Commission. The new Commissioners will be in charge of making decisions on key EU strategies and policies, propose laws, funding programmes and annual budgets for discussion and adoption by Parliament and the Council. Moreover, they will be in charge of the different EU funding programmes including Horizon Europe, European Structural and Investment Funds and EU External Aid funding instruments.

Who will be responsible for Research and Science spending?


Mariya Gabriel, Innovation and Youth (Bulgaria)

Gabriel will take over management of the €94.1 BEUR allocated to Horizon Europe, the EU's largest ever research programme. According to the "mission letter" addressed to Gabriel by von der Leyen, during the next five years her role is to:

  1. ensure swift agreement on and full implementation of the future Horizon Europe programme, working with Member States, the research community, civil society and other Commissioners.
  2. ensure sufficient investment flows to disruptive research and breakthrough innovations, notably through the European Innovation Council. To stay competitive globally, we should better support our innovators to bring their ideas to the market.
  3. work with Member States to build a true European Research Area in which we pull together all national and European efforts.
  4. ensure that research, policy and economic priorities go hand in hand. This will involve working with Commissioners across the entire range of EU policies, contributing to the new industrial strategy and making the most of the new thematic missions within the future Horizon Europe programme.
  5. promote excellence and networking among European universities.

In addition to Horizon Europe, Gabriel's sprawling portfolio will absorb education duties, currently performed by education commissioner Tibor Navracsics.

According to an article published by Science and Business "the appointment of a commissioner from Eastern Europe has a broader symbolic purpose. The EU-13's participation in Brussels research programmes remains at a low level. From 2007 to 2013, the poorer countries got 4.2 per cent of all Framework funding; from 2014 to mid-2018, it was 4.8 per cent. These countries account for about 10 per cent of all Horizon 2020 applications, but their success rate is 11.8 per cent, compared to 14.9 per cent in the EU-15".

Short profile:
Mariya Gabriel is responsible for digital economy and society in outgoing Commission. Was an MEP from 2009 to 2017. Was a teacher and a researcher at Sciences Po Bordeaux. She holds a Master in Comparative Politics and International Relations Academy for Political Science, Bordeaux, France.

Who will be responsible for ESIF spending?


Elisa Ferreira, Cohesion and Reforms (Portugal)


Europe's cohesion policy has a tangible impact on the lives of millions of Europeans. Investment in local communities and infrastructure helps regions to catch up and reduces geographical disparities. Ferreira will be in charge of the portfolio that will make it possible to ensure the conclusion of negotiations for the next multiannual financial framework and will also manage Structural and Investment Funds. In total she will take over the management of €373 BEUR proposed for future Cohesion Policy.


According to the "mission letter" addressed to Ferreira by von der Leyen, during the next five years her role is to:

  1. work with the co-legislators to find agreement on a legislative framework for Cohesion Funds for the next long-term budget. Support regions and managing authorities in preparing their programmes, in line with their specific needs and Europe's overall objectives. 
  2. work with the Member States to ensure they make full and effective use of the funds in the current budget and ensure there are appropriate controls on expenditure. 
  3. design and put forward a new Just Transition Fund, working closely with the Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal and the Commissioner for Budget and Administration. It should offer tailored support for the most affected, for instance those in industrial, coal and energy-intensive regions undergoing significant local transformations. There should be close coordination between the Just Transition Fund, employment and social funds, as well as the InvestEU programme. 
  4. support Member States' structural reforms aimed at speeding up growth-enhancing investments through the Structural Reform Support Service, offering technical and financial support for reforms. 
  5. promote sustainable development of Europe's cities and urban areas on issues such as climate change, digitalisation and the circular economy.

Short profile:

She is Economist. Deputy governor of the Bank of Portugal. Ferreira has also held two ministerial positions in Portugal, serving as Minister of Environment (1995-1999) and as Minister for Planning (1999-2001). She served three terms as an MEP for the Socialists & Democrats (S&D). She is the first Portuguese woman to be put forward as commissioner.

Who will be responsible for External Aid spending?


Jutta Urpilainen, International partnerships portfolio on future development cooperation and respect of EU values (Finland)

Urpilainen will be in charge of the newly proposed 89.5 BEUR Neighbourhood Development International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – a new funding instrument which merges most of the current geographic and thematic instruments into a single one designed to increase the effectiveness and visibility of the EU external policies.

According to the "mission letter" addressed to Urpilainen by von der Leyen, during the next five years her role is to:

  1. make the most of the political, economic and investment opportunities that Africa offers with its growing economies, populations and digital innovations;
  2. work with the High Representative/Vice-President on a new comprehensive strategy for Africa; 
  3. conclude the negotiations for an ambitious post-Cotonou agreement with the countries from the ACP Group of States; 
  4. support efforts to reach comprehensive partnerships with countries of migration origin and transit;
  5. ensure Europe's external financial assistance promotes the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs;
  6. ensure that gender equality and the empowerment of women continues to be a top priority in international cooperation and development policies;
  7. support civil society around the world to ensure they have a far greater role in designing and implementing European programmes and projects.

Urpilainen will work under the guidance of the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell (Spain) and will be supported by The Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).

Short profile:
Jutta Urpilainen is a former finance minister and ex-leader of the Social Democrats in Finland. Also Finland's first female commissioner. She studied to become a school principal, but decided politics was a better fit. Known for her tough line demanding collateral in exchange for bailouts during the eurozone crisis. Crowned Europe's "fourth best finance minister" in 2012.

Olivér Várhelyi​, Neighbourhood and Enlargement (Hungary)

Várhelyi will be in charge of the continuation of the IPA instrument – the proposed 14.5 BEUR Instrument for Pre-accession (IPA III) which will support EU candidate countries and potential candidates on their path to fulfilling the accession criteria. Additionally he will also oversee the relations with the EU neighbours (Eastern Partnership and Neighbourhood South – which will receive 22 BEUR funding under the NDICI instrument).

According to the "mission letter" addressed to Várhelyi von der Leyen, during the next five years his role is to:

On Western Balkans and Turkey:
  1. sustain and accelerate progress of each candidate country, keeping a credible perspective on future accession
  2. stand by the proposals made to open enlargement negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania. 
  3. speed up structural and institutional reforms across candidate countries
  4. support all efforts in the fight against corruption across the region of the Western Balkans
  5. work closely with the High Representative/Vice-President on relations with Turkey – a key partner, with common challenges and interests such as on security, migration, economy or trade.

On Eastern Partnership:
  1. put forward a new set of long-term policy objectives for the Eastern Partnership by mid 2020;
  2. focus on the outstanding issues notably on the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the role of an independent media and civil society;
  3. seek to accelerate the implementation of the Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova;
  4. make full use of the dedicated Support Group for Ukraine to support reforms and promote the European Union's steadfast commitment to the country's territorial integrity;

On Neighbourhood South:
  1. review and update the priorities and Association Agendas;
  2. explore how we can better promote good governance, protect our common environment, aim for a comprehensive partnership on effective migration management and support economic growth and employment across the region;
  3. make the best use of our financial instruments, including through innovative approaches to financial support and public–private partnerships.

Várhelyi will work under the guidance of the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell (Spain) and will be supported by the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

Short profile:
From 2008 to 2001 he briefly served as head of unit at the European Commission, in charge of industrial property rights at the Directorate General Internal Market and Services. He then moved back to the Hungarian foreign service, service from 2011 onward as deputy head and then from 2015 head of the Permanent Representation in Brussels, with the rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.


Janez Lenarčič, Crisis Management (Slovenia)


Lenarčič will be in charge of the proposed 11 BEUR Humanitarian Aid Instrument which will provide EU assistance to save and preserve lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural disasters or man-made crises in Europe and around the world.

According to the "mission letter" addressed to Lenarčič by von der Leyen, during the next five years his role is to:
  1. strengthen the Emergency Response Coordination Centre's role as the single operational hub managing the EU's swift and effective response to a crises in Europe and around the world;
  2. look at how Europe can better prevent and prepare for emergencies;
  3. make use of the full potential of the newly enhanced EU Civil Protection Mechanism, known as rescEU; 
  4. ensure that Europe plays an active and leading role in global dialogues on humanitarian issues, notably in the United Nations. In all international forums, Europe must be a strong global advocate in support of international humanitarian law.

Lenarčič will work under the guidance of the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell (Spain) and will be supported by the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO)

Short profile:
Janez Lenarčič served as ambassador to the OSCE, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, secretary of Slovenia's permanent U.N. mission, and the PM's diplomatic adviser.

Once the European Parliament has given its consent, the European Council formally appoints the European Commission.

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