Until few weeks ago it was out of any probability that Italy could propose Federica Mogherini as member of the next European Commission. Then, with the solution of the political crisis, everything changed. As a result, Mogherini is now one of the names circulating as possible Italian EU commissioner to enter to function in November.
The current High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has not been formally nominated yet. Again, she doesn’t seem to be the option number one from the new emerging coalition, but one never knows. Things are running so fast that everything can happen, and both the Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement (M5S) must take a very quick decision
PD names from the box
After the European elections, the elected MEPs had to vote the new president of the next European Commission. On 2 July 2019, Ursula von der Leyen was proposed by the European Council as their candidate for the office of President of the European Commission. The European Parliament elected her on 16 July. The next step is the designation of the commissioners by the member states. Because of the end of the coalition between the League and the Five Star Movement and the political crisis erupted from it, Italy didn’t nominate a candidate. The informal deadline to submit the candidate was 26 August.
Former prime ministers Enrico Letta and Paolo Gentiloni, both from the Democratic Party, have been put forward. The first declined the position, the second declined to comment. Matteo Renzi, also a former prime minister from PD, denied being interested in a career in Brussels.
Finally the name of Mogherini came out. Apparently decision makers in Italy are opting for a person from PD.
There are at least three different reason why Mogherini can be part of the Commission chairs game. The first one, as said, is time. Italy is very late. Mogherini is already there, serving as vice-president of the Juncker commission.
Other Member States preferred to confirm the commissioners already in office. It was the case for Austria (Johannes Hanh), Bulgaria (Mariya Gabriel), the Czech Republic (Vera Jourova), Denmark (Margrethe Vestager), Ireland (Phil Hogan), Latvia (Valdis Dombrovskis), the Netherlands (Frans Timmermans).
Confirming a commissioner already in service is a way to avoid negotiations which could risk wasting further time. Furthermore, and here comes the second reason why Mogherini can be the chosen one, expertise matters. Mogherini worked well during her mandate. She is now expert both in EU and international affairs. She knows very well Brussels and beyond. Thanks to her portfolio she has built a very strong network. She knows everybody at international level, and she is a proven, committed, pro-EU person.
Last but not least is the gender balance. Ursula von der Leyen promised to have a EU commission composed by men and women in equal proportion. So far this gender balance is not there. Looking at women proposed by the different governments, we have Sylvie Goulard (France), Margrethe Vestager (Denmark), Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria), Vera Jourova (Czech Republic), Kadri Simson (Estonia), Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus), Helena Dalli (Malta). Seven female commissioners out 27 members (8 out 28, counting also the president von der Leyen).
Mogherini can be thus an important contribution for von der Leyen’s project. She alone won’t be enough to fill the gap, but Italy can contribute. Germany and France provided a female member for the new European Commission, and in this case Italy has the opportunity to join the French-German engine of Europe by subscribing to a good practice.
All options still on the table
Non-political options have been put on the table as well. Elisabetta Belloni is another name circulating in the last weeks. She is a diplomat with a background in cooperation and development. She is actually serving as secretary general of the Italian ministry for Foreign Affairs. Let’s wait and see.
In the end Mogherini can be the right choice for Italy. She’s not in pole-position, that’s true, but she is keeping silence in a very delicate and crucial moment, focusing on her current European role. This strategy can help her to remain in Brussels for other five years. Probably many things are happening behind the scenes.