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It is official, the new College of Commissioners is in place. Forty-four days after its announcement and with some changes in the composition – the Slovenian candidate Alenka Bratušek replaced with Violeta Bulc - on 22 October the Juncker’s Team passed the most challenging exam, being approved from the plenary assembly of the European Parliament (EP), with 423 votes in favour, 209 against and 67 abstentions. The new Commission is expected to take up duty on 1 November after having been formally appointed by EU heads of state or government on 24 October.
The parliamentary voting comes after a long process of hearings, where each Commissioner was interviewed by the responsible EP Committees. Particularly problematic was the position of the Hungarian candidate for Education and Culture Tibor Navracsics, who underwent his hearing in front of the EP’s Committee for Culture and Education (CULT) on 10 October. The Committee’s opinion confirmed him suitable for being a Commissioner (with 15 votes pro, 10 cons and 2 non-voters) but at the same time strongly suggested to move him away from the Education and Culture post, considered too sensitive for a former member of the Orbán government, unpopular with regard to civil and cultural freedoms. Juncker finally decided to confirm Navracsics as Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, but depriving him of the citizenship portfolio, conferred to the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopulos. During the EP final voting of approval, the leaders of the major political groups made further remarks stressing the disappointment for having the Education and Culture post confirmed to such a ‘weak’ commissioner, and welcoming the new structure of Vice-Presidents who can control his operating (see ACA Newletter – Education Europe, Edition September 2014).
Navracsics seems to be ready to take over the heritage left by Androulla Vassiliou. Her main achievements over the past 5 years as Commissioner have been collected in a new booklet titled Preparing for Life, recently published by the European Commission. Among the major highlights are the additional resources for education and culture programmes, in particular 40% more funds for Erasmus+ (the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport) and a 9% higher budget for Creative Europe (supporting the cultural and creative sectors). The brochure also underlines the additional support secured by the former Commissioner for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions. "I am confident that the future Commission can build on these solid achievements" said Ms. Vassiliou at the launching event of the booklet, back home in Cyprus. As she is so confident on the future, perhaps we could try to be too.