The new European Commission took office on 1 November 2014. It will serve a five year term. It is led by Jean-Claude Juncker.
The European Commissioner for Transport (including maritime transport) is Violeta Bulc. She is a Slovenian telecom entrepreneur and politician. She served as a Minister without Portfolio in the Slovenian Government was but responsible for Development, Strategic Projects and Cohesion from 19 September 2014 to 1 November 2014 in the centre-left Cerar Government in Slovenia. She seems well-qualified for the shipping brief having practised fire-walking and engaged in tae kwon do! Commissioner Bulc is responsible for DG Mobility and Transport (“MOVE”) and the relevant parts of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (“INEA”) as well as being responsible for relations with: (a) the European Railway Agency (“ERA”); (b) the European Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”); and (c) the European Maritime Safety Agency (“EMSA”). As this Commission is organised into "project teams" where different Commissioners come together to work on common projects, it is notable that Commissioner Bulc is part of the Project Teams which deal with Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Digital Single Market, Energy Union, Better Regulation and Interinstitutional Affairs, Budget and Human Resources as well as Europe in the World; interestingly, there is no specific maritime-related item on that agenda.
There are other Commissioners in the Juncker Commission whose portfolios are directly relevant to maritime matters including the following: Karmenu Vella who is the Commissioner with responsibility for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; Federica Mogherini who is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission; Cecilia Malmström who is the Trade Commissioner; Miguel Arias Cañete is the Commissioner with responsibility for Climate Action & Energy; and Margrethe Vestager is the Competition Commissioner. Ultimately, the work of all the Commissioners could have an impact on maritime matters including, for example, Marianne Thyssen who is the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility would be relevant in the on-going extension of EU employment rights to seafarers.
This new Commission has a particular interest in the rule of law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights which could well be useful for those in the maritime sector whose rights are infringed. For example, shipping companies which cannot avail of the fundamental freedoms or whose rights were infringed during an inspection (more commonly referred to as a “dawn raid”) by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition may be able to sue the EU for damages.
The challenge for shipping in dealing with the Commission (and equally for the Commission in dealing with shipping) is that the sector is dealt with by several Commissioners and several Directorates General which raises interesting challenges.