Top EU climate jobs go to Slovenia and Spain

Alenka Bratushek will be vice president for energy union, while Miguel Arias Canete gets climate action and energy brief

Alenka Bratushek and Miguel Arias Canete will shape the EU position on climate change

Alenka Bratushek and Miguel Arias Canete will shape the EU position on climate change

By Megan Darby

Spain representative Miguel Arias Canete will lead Europe’s climate action and energy policy, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Wednesday.

For the first time, the Commission is merging the energy and climate change portfolios, which are currently held by Germany’s Gunther Oettinger and Denmark’s Connie Hedegaard respectively.

While the directorates for energy and climate will remain distinct, they will report to one commissioner. The Commission said Europe needed to speak with “one, strong voice” on climate change.

Canete will serve as commissioner under the vice presidency of Slovenia’s Alenka Bratushek, whose role is to shape an “energy union”.

Bratushek’s priority will be to reduce EU dependence on Russian energy imports, in light of tensions in the Ukraine.

The strategy will include a binding objective to improve energy efficiency 30% by 2030, Juncker stressed. That level of ambition has yet to be fixed, despite Juncker’s backing, with national leaders set to finalise the 2030 package next month.

Explaining the restructuring, Juncker said: “I want to reform and reorganise Europe’s energy policy into a new European energy union.

“We need to pool our resources, combine our infrastructures and unite our negotiating power vis-à-vis third countries. We need to diversify our energy sources, and reduce the high energy dependency of several of our member states.”

As vice president, Bratushek will also coordinate with the commissioners for transport, internal market, industry, environment, regional policy, agriculture and science.


The appointments must be approved by the EU Council of Ministers and the EU Parliament before they can take effect on 1 November.

Together, Canete and Bratushek will represent the EU’s position on climate change at a critical period for international negotiations.

The appointments are different to those seen in a leaked document last week, which showed Latvia and the UK getting energy and climate jobs.

However, the restructuring of portfolios is as previously reported.

The two will oversee the development of Europe’s 2030 energy and climate package, due to be signed off in October.

That will inform the bloc’s strategy in the lead up to Paris 2015 climate talks, at which negotiators are set to strike a global agreement.


As Slovenia’s first female prime minister, serving from March 2013 to May 2014, Bratushek oversaw an austerity plan and sell-off of state firms.

Meanwhile, Canete comes to his role from three years as Spain’s environment minister. In that post, he signed a statement of the green growth group calling for a binding EU target to cut emissions by “at least” 40% by 2030.

He is familiar with UN climate negotiations, having represented Spain at the last summit in Warsaw.

And he is on record saying “combating climate change requires action to be taken right now”.

Critics questioned his commitment to climate action, however, pointing to his prior involvement with and shares in oil company Petrolifera Ducar.

His appointment may also be controversial from a gender equality perspective, after he got into trouble for making sexist remarks earlier this year.

“Holding a debate with a woman is complicated, because showing intellectual superiority could be seen as sexist,” he said in a televised debate.

Canete was a “surprising choice, given his connections to the oil industry”, said Greenpeace EU managing director Mahi Sideridou.

“To prove he is the right man for the job, he’ll have to resolve conflicts of interests and improve on his environmental record as a minister.”

Siderou added: “With events in Iraq and Ukraine stoking fears about Europe’s energy security, and climate change undermining political stability, we need a Commission that recognises the importance of reducing our dependence on dirty, imported fossil fuels.”

The European Wind Energy Association welcomed the appointments.

CEO Thomas Becker said: “We look forward to working with vice president Bratusek and commissioner Canete on building a new treaty-busting energy union in Europe, which is underpinned by renewables.

“For a true single energy market to flourish in Europe, energy policy must become the domain of EU lawmakers and should not be shackled to 28 diverging ministries, regulators and agencies at national level.”

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