Blog AnalysisEU Institutions

Avramopoulos and Jourova: the weak link in the Juncker Commission?

Avramopoulos Wiki(BRUSSELS2) The European Commission normally has two senior officials who are on the front line in the fight against terrorism: the Greek Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner responsible for Migration and Home Affairs, and the Czech Vera Jourova, his alter-ego responsible for Justice and Consumer Rights. Two people who today seem completely absent from the European political debate today. To the point that it was the Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, who was sent to the coal in front of the press on Wednesday. With a not very good result, it must be admitted, and responses that do not match the seriousness of the subject (Read: Faced with terrorism, Frans Timmermans tempers. We'll talk about it in May!). The European executive seems to want to keep a low profile on the issue of the fight against terrorism. Is this due to those responsible?

Avramopoulos more concerned about Greek politics

The Greek Dimitris Avramopoulos is very political. He talks a lot, generally well. And his speech is convincing. But he was never a " workaholic » and is reluctant to delve into the files. In Greece, according to my information, he managed to maintain good relations with most parties, to the point that the left party Syriza could consider him for the post of President of the Republic. A position that would fit him like a glove, an honorary position, consensual, and without technical difficulty. This project, mentioned for a while, seems to have fizzled out (for the moment). The “New Democracy” party of Antónis Samarás wants to avoid anything that appears as a compromise position by giving Syriza a label of governability. But, despite his weak denials, Avramopoulos does not seem to have given up playing a role in Athens. At the start of the week, invited to the Foreign Ministers' debate on Monday on the fight against terrorism, he left as quickly as possible. The agenda was shuffled to allow him to speak to Ministers and then leave. But he did not then attend the ministers' debate which was nevertheless devoted to his file...

Jourová: a justified absence

The Czech Vera Jourová arrived at Justice by default. It's a reality. This is not the file she was aiming for nor the one the Czech Republic was aiming for. In Prague, the “justice” issue was largely perceived as a minor subject compared to that of “Regional Policy” or “Transport”. Wrongly, no doubt, as I explained on Czech television at the time of his appointment. His hearing had been quite laborious (read:  Five commissioners in balance). And, since her appointment, Jourová has not really been very active or indicated that she had taken on the issues head on, apart from that of the Roma. In her defense, we must mention a personal problem, an illness (hepatitis) which immobilized her for many weeks after her appointment. She only recently returned to her duties. It would therefore be rather inconsistent to draw hasty conclusions, especially since his hearing in the European Parliament.

A negative break?

Whatever the cause, the Commission appears to be suffering from political atony. Which contrasts sharply with the past. The position(s) of commissioner(s) have often been occupied by personalities who have succeeded in paving their way on this subject, either by establishing themselves in the media game, or by having acquired a certain technical expertise on subjects, sometimes the two. In the previous Commission, the duo Cecilia Malmström – Viviane Reding undoubtedly had one of the (rare) successes of this Barroso Commission. And, previously, the Italian Franco Frattini like the French Jacques Barrot or the Portuguese Antonio Vitorino (in office in 2001) had illustrated on the subject, each in their own way, a skill or presence that has not (yet) succeeded to acquire the Juncker Commission. Today, that doesn't seem to be the case. As a result, we hear a lot more from Gilles de Kerchove, the anti-terrorist coordinator. “ A bit too much » it seems to be at the discretion of certain officials of the European Commission even if they will never officially admit it.

Comments : The fault does not lie with the person concerned… It rather lies in the organization of the Commission. Certainly the “fight against terrorism” is not in the DNA of the European executive. But while the subjects raised are important and serious, affecting all European policies, the subject seems neglected. Incomprehensible. Is it Avramopoulos and Jourova, Timmermans or Jean-Claude Juncker himself, or even Federica Mogherini? Unlike the other officials, the High Representative of the EU very quickly took stock of the subject, even if she was absent during the first exchange of views on “terrorism” of the European Commission (on a trip to Washington). It would perhaps be time for the European executive to very clearly designate, within itself, a political pilot, a coordinator of its action which today seems scattered and hesitant.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).